Speed affects your ranking on search results
Speed matters to Google. Unless you’re not out to get your website as high as it could be on a Google search results page, anything that matters to Google should matter to you.
Google’s co-founder Larry Page expressed a vision of “being able to go from webpage to webpage as quickly as turning the pages of a magazine”, which led to Google’s “Let’s make the web faster” initiative in 2009.
The tech giant has been campaigning for speed ever since: site speed has been a ranking factor for desktop search results since 2010, and last year (2018), Google has announced that page speed will be used for mobile search ranking as well.
Aside from being an official ranking factor, page speed also affects your bounce rate, or the percentage of sessions where a user leaves your site after visiting only one page.
The bounce rate is an important indicator of how relevant your site is, which in turn is a factor that Google considers when serving search results.
A low bounce rate tells Google that your site must be relevant enough if users are exploring more pages and not immediately clicking out when they come to your site.
On the other hand, a high bounce rate suggests that users do not find your site content relevant to the query they searched for.
Often, however, it’s not irrelevance that is the issue, but slow loading time.
When a page loads too slow, most people simply hit the back button and look at the next item in the search results. According to Google, as load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds, the probability of bounce already increases 32%.
But as page load time decreases, the number of pages that users tend to visit in one session also increases—in 2017, for example, users were shown to visit an average of 5.6 pages more when a page load time is 2 seconds compared to 8 seconds.
If your site is too slow, you run the risk of showing up lower (or not showing up at all) in search results.
Google serves the most relevant pages based on a person’s search query, but even the most relevant page will be of no good use to a user who not only wants to get an answer to her question, but wants to get it fast.
Speed affects user experience and conversions
Users don’t like a slow site. In this era of instant gratification, nobody really has the patience to wait for a slow loading site when hundreds of other similar sites can be found on the web.
In fact, an average user will spend more minutes browsing a fast but irrelevant site than wait for a relevant but slow one to load.
Speed is an important factor in the user experience because technically, your user will not be able to experience anything in your site until it loads.
In 2018, Google found that more than half of mobile site visits exit a page when it loads for longer than 3 seconds.
If your site is slow, you’re losing a substantial number of potential visitors. Not only that, but you’re also losing potential conversions.
In Unbounce’s 2019 Page Speed Report, 45.4% of surveyed users said that they are less likely to buy from a site that loads slower than expected.
But even more alarmingly, 36.8% are less likely to return while 11.9% are likely to tell a friend about the experience.
On the other hand, Google reports that consumers are on average 10% more willing to recommend a webshop as load time went from 13 seconds to just 10 seconds—and as load time was further reduced from 13 to 3 seconds, the estimated advocacy from consumers also increased to 26%.
User experience affects how likely your site visitors are going to convert, and this likelihood will only further decrease if your users are leaving your site before they even see what you can offer.
More importantly, good user experience produces loyal customers who will be advocates for your brand. And good user experience starts with a fast loading site.
Speed affects how much you pay for ads
Search ads cost more if you have slow landing pages. If you’re running pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google, you may be familiar with the Quality Score metric, an estimate on the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. It’s also a determining factor in how much you get charged for each click you get on your ads—basically, the higher your quality score is, the less you have to pay.
Unsurprisingly, page speed is one of the factors that affect how Google determines your quality score.
When someone clicks on your ad and the landing page loads too slow, Google considers it a poor user experience, likely causing the ad’s overall quality score to go down.
As a result, your ads become at risk of showing less often or even not at all, and on top of this, you also pay higher for the clicks that you manage to get. No one likes a lose-lose situation.
Speed affects your operating costs
A slow site is often caused by “unnecessary” resources taking up too much space in the server. Cutting down on these resources not only improves your page loading time, but also helps you cut down on your operating costs.
Generally, hosting plans come with a certain amount of allotted resources—some plans offer fixed costs regardless of how much resources you use up in the server, but most charge an extra or require you to upgrade when your resources exceed a certain amount.
However, the ideal solution is not always to upgrade to a larger server, but simply to remove unnecessary resources in your current one.
This frees up space that lets you stay within your current plan and enables you to handle more traffic to your site without investing in more hardware.
In some cases, this can even let you opt for a lower-priced plan. Either way, the end result is a faster site at a relatively lower operating cost.
Speed affects your site’s indexation
Google and other search engines may crawl your site less if it’s slow.
Google’s crawlers have a so-called “allocated crawl budget”.
This budget is made up of two factors—crawl demand, which is the demand for your pages based on their popularity and the relevance of your content, and crawl rate limit, which limits the “maximum fetching rate” for your site, or the number of pages that the crawlers can “call” simultaneously and the waiting time between such calls.
If your site responds quickly to the fetches, Google’s crawlers are able to crawl more pages. However, if the site loads slow or sends many connection timeouts, the crawl rate limit decreases and Google might stop crawling altogether.
While Google did confirm that this is not a concern for most small websites, if you have a large site with more than a few thousands of pages, too slow loading time may be affecting your site’s indexation.