I recently came across a video by Google, stressing the importance of site speed. Google has sent strong signals that the download speed of web pages matters, not only for the best conversion rates but perhaps as a factor for ranking in the SERPs in the future. In addition, speed can have an impact on how many of your pages get indexed.
So why does Google think speed is of importance? Through the following tests:
Side by side testing of optimized vs Original versions of the sites:
Only difference is that the optimized version was faster but the content remained the same in both. Firefox and Shopzilla had some interesting findings.
Shopzilla had 7 – 12% increase in conversions and a 50% decrease in operating costs.
Firefox reported a 15.4% increase in downloads. Firefox estimates that this is about 60 million extra downloads.
User satisfaction test:
Google and MicroSoft conducted a user satisfaction test by returning delayed results to some users. Results showed that just about half a second delay caused 1% of the users to feel dissatisfied. As the delay increased to one second, the dissatisfaction rose to 4%. As the test continued, users were feeling so dissatisfied that Microsoft ended the test fairly quickly.
Google & Microsoft conducted another experiment. They found that a 400 ms delay in the rendering the search results reduced the query volume drastically and this trend continued for 7 weeks. In fact the query volume didn’t get back to normal until 11 weeks after the experiment was discontinued. So this speaks for itself how much a site’s speed plays a role in determining its conversions.
While content and relevance are still primary in determining a site’s rankings in SERPS, site speed plays a major role too now.
According to Steve Souders, a Google Employee and the author of ‘High performance Web sites blog’, the Performance Golden rule is that “80 – 90% of the end-user response time is spent on the front-end. Start there”.
How is that? Look at a Waterfall chart from webpagetest.org’s performance analysis of a web page.
Google’s webmaster tools’ site performance dashboard not only gives the average load time of a site’s pages but also provides a comprehensive comparison of the speed with other web sites on the web. So if your site performs better than 95% of the sites on the web, then turn your attention to the content. If not, make speed your priority.
‘Page Speed’ is yet another powerful tool to analyze a page’s bottlenecks. Page Speed is a firefox plugin that provides a score for each page based on its analysis and also provides its recommendations. People have found to decrease their load times by 5 seconds on an average following these recommendations.
What is a good response time to aim for?
According to Google, Following your competition is the best answer to this question. If your competition provides a better user experience then you would want to aim for a better and a reliable user experience for your audience. Akamais’ own case studies show that 2 seconds is the threshold for e-commerce acceptability. Google’s aim is however under half a second.
What other tips did Google provide?
Implement Progressive Rendering – Progressive rendering is when a browser can display content as it’s available incrementally rather than waiting for all the content to display at once. This provides users faster visual feedback and helps them feel more in control.
Bing found a 0.7% increase in customer satisfaction with progressive rendering.
How to implement it? Simple. Put stylesheets at the top of the page. This allows a browser to start displaying content ASAP.