How Does Website Speed Affect Your Inbound Marketing Efforts? (And How to Make it Work)
The slower your website loads, the greater the chances that visitors will give up and leave so here's what you must know about website speed and its impact on your inbound marketing efforts.
In the age of instant gratification, online users demand instant access to whatever it is they're searching for.
And let's not forget that humans now famously (and allegedly) have shorter attention spans than goldfish do – less than 9 seconds.
So, the slower your website loads, the greater the chances that visitors will simply give up and leave. Which is not good for your traffic, not good for your reputation, and not good for your revenues.
Before you start focusing on all those sexier tactics inbound marketing is famous for, you should make sure your foundations are solid. First, you'll want to ensure that your website is in good shape to greet all those consumers you're trying to send its way.
Here's what you need to know about website speed.
User experience – the underlying factor.
We're still not quite sure what the relationship between user experience and a website's ranking is. But we are quite certain the two are profoundly linked, as Google and other search engines aim to put personalisation at the forefront of search experiences.
However, even if UX didn't affect your ranking, it would still affect everything else. That's why thinking about the implications of slow loading times should be at the top of your list, ranking factor or no ranking factor.
If you keep showing up in search results, but people never actually get to your site because the combination of their need for speed and your website’s slow response has them flocking to the next best result, your bottom line will suffer. There’s no question about that.
Page speed – an actual ranking factor.
Disregarding UX for a minute, we need to point out that page speed has been a ranking factor for desktop search for 10 years now. It has since become a ranking factor in mobile search as well. Without doubt, it's only going to play an ever increasing part as we shift even more profoundly to a predominantly mobile-centered search landscape.
Unfortunately, there is no specific way to know how your pages are affected by this ranking factor, but there are tools that can help you evaluate performance and draw your own conclusions:
- Chrome’s User Experience Report is a dataset of UX metrics for popular online resources, based on Chrome users and real experiences.
- Lighthouse is a part of Chrome’s Developer Tools and it audits website quality.
- PageSpeed Insights also suggests optimisation options, based on how a page performs in the Chrome User Experience Report.
Combining these tools together should let you know how your pages are doing in comparison with the competition.
What are good page loading times anyway?
Speaking of the competition, let’s talk about the benchmarks you want to be aiming for.
According to Google, anything under two seconds is a recommended page load time. However, under half a second would be even better.
Bear in mind that speeds will vary not only from webpage to webpage, but they will also be highly influenced by the user’s browser, device, and internet speed, so it might not all be up to you.
In other words, you can improve your page load speeds and rank better as a result of your efforts, but a user still might click off because you're not loading fast enough for them, through no fault of your own.
How to improve your loading times.
Making sure your website is as fast as it can be should be on your list of ongoing SEO tasks.
However, if the website is already fast, and you speed it up by another few milliseconds, it’s unlikely that you will see a boost in rankings.
On the other hand, if the website is slow, and you make significant improvements, your rankings will improve.
Here is everything you need to know about boosting website speeds:
Choose your hosting wisely.
The server your website is housed on will play a major part in how fast it can potentially be.
Always choose a reliable host, and one that allows you to easily upgrade your hosting plan when and if you need to. A VPS is always the best choice, but you can go for a shared server initially, as they usually cost a lot less, and are well equipped to handle any initial traffic you may experience.
Bear in mind that a server upgrade may not always result in better performance, if the website itself is clogged up and dragging its feet.
While it's true that an encrypted website will be a tad slower than a non-encrypted one, you still need to invest in an HTTPS encryption.
Google treats HTTP websites that collect user data as unsafe, and issues a warning to this effect, so you may scare off a lot of potential visitors without an encryption.
A lower level SSL certificate will still be fast enough, and it will provide all the necessary safety measures users and search engines need.
Your host’s location also matters.
Where your website is hosted will play an important role in how fast your website loads.
If a user is trying to reach your site from the US, and you're hosting it in Australia, the request will travel halfway across the world, which will naturally take some time.
By hosting a website where the majority of your users is located, you'll be able to speed things up significantly.
Server response times.
One of the main factors of how fast your pages will load is the amount of time your DNS lookup will take.
A DNS (domain name system) is a server with a database of IP addresses and their hostnames. When a user types a certain URL into their browser, the DNS server will translate that URL into an IP address. A DNS lookup is the process of finding a specific DNS entry.
If that process takes a very long time, your website will be slower.
Since you can’t influence this yourself, you need to make sure to choose a host that has short DNS response times.
Choose your plugins carefully.
The more plugins you have, the slower your website will load, unfortunately.
We understand that you have to install some: but do make sure that all of them serve a concrete purpose, and that you're not just adding them for the sake of having plugins.
Only install plugins from reputable developers, and if you notice they are slowing the website down, try to find a faster alternative.
Optimise your media files.
The one thing that can significantly slow your website down is the size of your videos and images. We often don’t even realize how large the images we upload are.
Every time you're uploading, make sure each image is properly optimised, as opposed to optimising them once a month when you notice things have slowed down.
Compress each image to as small a size as you can without sacrificing quality, and ensure all the meta elements are present. The latter will help search engines recognise what your images are about.
The same goes for videos – don’t upload them in their original size, as they will slow the page down significantly. Try embedding links rather than uploading videos.
While it may seem like a trivial matter, website speed is, in fact, a crucial element to every inbound marketing strategy – and one that can ruin all your good work at that. Implement the tips we've discussed above, and you won't end up watching visitors scooting off because of your site's crippling response times.