A page slowdown of 1 second could cost Amazon $1.6 billion in sales annually.
Remember the last time you visited a slow loading site to book tickets or just get a phone number? While this might have just been a minor annoyance for you at the time, it can really hurt the business of the website owner.
Surfers today are expecting fast loading sites and will look elsewhere if this expectation is not met. A study conducted by Google found that a 2-second increase in page loading times resulted in a 30% increase in shopping cart abandonment for an e-commerce site. Similarly, surveys conducted by Adobe concluded that 39% of people will stop engaging with a website if images don’t load or take too long to load.
Furthermore, site performance impacts the overall perception of not just the website but also the business behind it. Research suggests that visitors of a slowly loading site also view aspects such as visual design and content more negatively.
And last but not least, poor site performance can keep potential visitors from even getting to your site - Google is using page speed as a criterion for search result ranking.
How do I know if my website is fast enough?
You can check your sites' loading speed using Google's new platform web.dev, or by using the Lighthouse extension for Chrome. These services will show you scores for Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO along with suggestions on what to improve.
A good option to test the performance of your site from different locations around the world is GTmetrix.
How to improve your website's performance
1) Choose the right hosting and location
Website hosting has become very affordable. However, picking a cheap shared hosting offers can come at a high price in terms of website performance.
To offer the best possible experience to your visitors, you should look for a hosting plan that includes dedicated (virtual) CPU cores and RAM as well as fast SSD storage. Premium features such as server-side caching (e.g. via LiteSpeed) and support for SPDY or HTTP/2 protocols can speed up your page even further.
When choosing your hosting provider, you should also consider the physical location of their servers, and pick one that hosts the site close to your users' location. With data traveling through underwater fiber-optical lines at the speed of light, this might not seem very relevant. But it is - according to statistics of US provider Verizon, connections across the globe can have delays of more than 0.25 seconds. This can translate into delays of several seconds for your website, as data has to be transferred back and forth several times to establish a secure SSL/TLS connection.
2) Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Picking the perfect location for your site can be difficult when your site visitors are spread around the globe. In such cases, using a CDN can greatly improve performance. CDNs operate highly optimized networks of servers distributed worldwide. These servers will cache your site's static files (e.g. images and scripts), and deliver them to your visitors from the closest server.
So when a visitor from the UK visits a website hosted in Singapore, the images are not transferred from Singapore, but from the CDN's server in London.
Using a CDN used to be too expensive for smaller businesses. Thanks to Cloudflare, that's no longer the case. The functionality of the free Cloudflare plan is more than sufficient to speed up smaller websites. Besides the performance improvements, the free plan also includes a free SSL certificate and adds an extra layer of security for your site.
3) Clean up your scripts
Besides data privacy concerns, including Google Maps, live chat services, Facebook widgets, and other third-party services in your website can drastically slow down your site as files have to be loaded from different servers for each of the services.
You should, therefore, review the external services you are using, and only keep the essential ones. Some resources such as web fonts can also be loaded directly from your site instead of relying on a third party server.
For the remaining services, you can employ techniques such as non-blocking loading to minimize the effect on your site's performance.
Bonus: WordPress plugins
Is your site running on WordPress? Then a good way to speed up your site can be to review the plugins you installed on your site and keep only the ones you really need.
There are many plugins available to speed up your site for free. A combination we like to use is Comet Cache and Autoptimize. If you use a high-performance hosting service based on LiteSpeed Web Server, you can also use LiteSpeed Cache instead.
You will need to carefully review your site after setting up these plugins though because they can cause with other plugins and themes.
So does site performance really matter?
The answer is a clear YES - numerous studies of industry experts concluded that poor website performance leads to lost sales and lower customer satisfaction. Investments into other important aspects such as security might not have
To conclude, we strongly advise checking your site's performance quickly as a business strategy for turning visitors into leads while improving your position in Google's search results.
Geekho (Cambodia) is a boutique design agency located in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with a team of seasoned experts in marketing automation, web performance and custom development.
With the WordPress Performance and Security Package, Geekho is offering a comprehensive optimization service for SMEs to improve conversion rates and customer satisfaction.
This article is part of Geekho's series of articles on website optimization. Read more about website security in our previous article.