Slow and sluggish websites can cost businesses big time, and SMEs are urged to keep load times at under three seconds if they want to make sure customers stay online to complete a purchase.
The State of Online Retail report from cloud services provider Akamai has highlighted the importance of websites loading quickly, with the “sweet spot” being at 2.4 seconds.
Traffic for websites that loaded at a slower rate than that suffered significantly, with nearly 30% of customers found to not return to slow websites. Additionally, just a two-second increase in load times led to customers spending 50% less time on a webpage.
SEO expert and chief executive at StewArt Media Jim Stewart believes a number of small business owners don’t realise how much of a “pain point” slow loading websites are.
“Back in 2004 Google found just half a second of extra load time leads to a 20% decrease in conversion rates, and it’s only been increasing since then,” Stewart tells SmartCompany.
“These days they’ve found 60% of customers will abandon a page if it takes three seconds to load.”
Akamai’s report shows even more alarming figures than that, with bounce rates for mobile users hitting 102% with a load rate slowdown of just two seconds.
A website’s bounce rate indicates the number of users who navigate away from the website after just viewing one page.
“Business owners should know if your website loads slowly, you’re going to get less traffic, less conversions, and Google will hold your site down in search rankings,” says Stewart.
Keep your website up to speed
Stewart compares managing load times to “tuning a race car”, noting the large number of components that can make the difference between snappy and sluggish.
But tuning these components is essential, as Akamai’s report revealed a slowdown of just 100 milliseconds causing a 7.1% drop in conversion rates for mobile users.
Mobile users expect websites to load fast, with the report showing higher bounce rates on mobile. Stewart believes SMEs need to think “mobile first” when it comes to website load times, noting this is an area that’s commonly overlooked.
“We’re in a mobile-first world now, so you need to look at your mobile site. Websites might be loading big display banners on mobile when they don’t really need to,” he says.
As for other ways businesses can fix up their website’s load times, Stewart advises using Google’s PageSpeed Insights to find out where a webpage is lacking.
“It will give you a ranking out of 100, and you really need to be in the 80s or higher. I guarantee most businesses will be surprised of what Google thinks of their website,” he says.
Some common issues that cause slow websites include the loading of high-quality images, and background scripts loading before the page visuals render.
“By not loading those scripts in the background, your page will take longer to appear. In this world we live in, we need to give users the information they need as quickly as we possibly can,” he says.
Another tip, says Stewart, is to keep file sizes as small as possible.
“Also try to host your site servers as close to your users as possible. If you’re an Australian website, make sure your content distribution servers are based here,” he says.