Ignore your slow website at your peril

The importance of website speed first hit the headlines in 2010 when Google announced that page loading times would influence its search ranking results. The decision had webmasters and SEO professionals scrambling to keep up, despite largely only impacting a small fraction of sites with particularly slow speeds.

Fast forward to today and we know a lot more about the impact of a slow website. In a recent research, Kissmetrics discovered that 40 per cent of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. It also goes on to state that a one second delay in page response can result in a seven per cent reduction in conversions.

So it’s plain to see from those stats that a slow website will cost you money. More so now as Google is launching a mobile-only index that will also use website speed as a ranking factor.

Now before you grumble about Google, there is good reason behind the move. They released some mobile benchmarks early last year and they were pretty damning. The average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds, according to a new analysis. Yet 53 per cent of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load.

The report also highlighted that with a mobile website loading speed increasing from one to five seconds, the probability that your potential customer bounces (leaving without browsing further) increases by 90 per cent.

Thus, when Google’s mobile search rankings will be launched in July 2018. I suspect this will have a significantly bigger impact for small businesses than the earlier decision that concentrated on desktop page loading speed.

Why the mobile update will hit small business harder

The small business website often has several issues that (while they may not be a huge deal on desktop) will be crucial factors when it comes to mobile devices:

  • Lack of image optimisation. Even if your developer optimised your images for speed, it’s unlikely they told you the importance of sizing and compressing your images.
  • Technical optimisation. If you’ve paid $1000 for a small business website, the chances are your developer has not minified your JavaScript, HTML and CSS. They also probably have not enabled gzip nor setup browser caching.
  • Cheap web hosting. A problem for desktop speed as well but all the more important for mobile. If a premium host only increases your page speed by one second, that will improve your conversions by seven per cent. What’s your ROI on that?

What should small businesses be doing in 2018?

The first thing to understand here is the experience your website offers your audience on a mobile device. Use Google’s own mobile speed testing tool to know the real score. It will provide a rating of your site out of 100 and make necessary recommendations. If you need to improve, find someone that can help you to implement those recommendations.

Also take note of the following tips as well:

  1. Find a managed website host. Pay the extra; it will be worth it.
  2. Implement Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).
  3. Make sure everyone who manages content on your website understands the need to optimise your images.
  4. Consider minimising the elements on your mobile pages. For example, do you really need every image for your mobile users? And is that embedded tweet or Facebook post necessary on mobile?
  5. Audit the third-party software providers you’re using. Each third-party provider you use to deliver extra functionality will add more scripts to your site and that will slow it down. Only use functionality that’s necessary

Quentin Aisbett, Digital Strategist, OnQ Marketing

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