Page Load Time: How to optimize your site and increase revenue

Since 2010, page load time has been added as one of the ranking factors utilized by Google rankings. While some say it’s not a particularly strong ranking signal in itself, it’s a metric that has a massive knock-on effect on other important metrics, including sales and revenue.

There are many different studies suggesting that page load speed directly impacts conversion rates and sales. A study done by Amazon concluded that if their pages load just one second too long it could cost them $1.6 billion in sales each year. Google has calculated that if their search results take just four tenths of a second more they could lose 8 million searches per day, which ultimately impacts in huge losses in ad revenue.

In an A/B test done by Shopzilla, comparing the impact of the download speed their pages had on conversion, they found that their faster pages delivered 7 to twelve percent more conversions than the slower pages.

Some small and medium-sized businesses have been working on page load time to generate revenue. UGears, which produces self-assembled, high quality mechanical models, had a successful crowdfunding campaign, raising over $400,000, but they needed to build a long term, sustainable revenue source.

Running the free website audit tool Plug in SEO, they identified specific issues including page load time, on-page SEO and blog. Now, 25% of their revenue (and growing) comes from organic sources. Co-founder Dmitry comments: “We can clearly feel the increase in sales following the page load improvements.”

How Fast is Your Store’s Page Load Time?

Find out if you could increase revenue:

If we put ourselves in the shoes of an average consumer, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. With higher competition and lower attention span, every millisecond counts. An article by The New York Times titled “For Impatient Web Users, an Eye Blink Is Just Too Long to Wait” showed that users begin getting frustrated after waiting for just 400 milliseconds for web pages to load.

At Compass, we have access to a growing data set that tracks over $6 billion in annual ecommerce transactions. Looking at this we asked, how does page load speed impact the most important business metrics for hundreds of online stores? This is what we found:

If your page takes 2 extra seconds to load, bounce rates go up to 50%

Bounce Rate is a metric that evaluates how many people leave your site without performing any action, which strongly indicates that they’re not having a good experience with it. Following the red line in the graph below, you can see that slow websites have considerably worse bounce rates than fast ones.

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If your site is slow, people get impatient and bounce to shop elsewhere. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Since a bounce only counts when a user allows a page to load fully and then leaves, slow websites are probably losing a lot more people than our numbers indicate.

Conversions fall by 12% for every extra second it takes for your page to load

Conversion rate is a metric that calculates how many of your website visitors convert into shoppers. Following the red line below, notice that page load time also has a direct impact on conversion rates. The slower your website is, the worst your conversion rate will be.

Bad conversion rates negatively impact the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, making it much more expensive to acquire customers.

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Revenue increases by 3.2% if you improve average loading speed from 4 to 2 seconds

We were surprised to discover that the impact of improvements in page load speed seem to be more significant for companies who already have fast websites.

As you can see in the graph below, the Increase of Revenue curve is steeper for faster sites. A steeper curve indicates that having a fast website gives all the more reason to optimize it further.

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Merchants who sell cheaper products also seem to gain the most by optimizing their websites for page loading speed. As indicated by the graph below, improving page load speed appears to have a stronger effect on ecommerce sites with an average order value lower than $50.

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What You Can Do to Increase Page Load Speed

KEY POINTS

A webpage contains many components of different types including Javascripts, stylesheets (CSS), images, video and audio. The time taken for a web browser to download everything it requires to show (or render) the page is the page load time.

BEST PRACTICE

  1. Minimize the number of apps that add Javascript to your site.
  2. Remove the remains of old unused apps from your HTML and their associated CSS and Javascript.
  3. Keep an eye on image sizes, especially in areas like a homepage slideshow or hero section of your site, ensuring that they’re sufficiently compressed. Use tools like Crush.pics to help you.
  4. Make sure all of the page components are hosted on fast web servers.
  5. Static components, such as Javascript, CSS and images, are those that load (are served) exactly the same to all of your visitors (in opposed to dynamic components). These can be hosted on a specialized, fast server network called a CDN (Content Delivery Network).
  6. Make sure that above-the-fold information loads as quickly as possible. Use lazy loading for everything else.
  7. Measure the range of real-world load times by sampling your visitors using tools like Google Analytics > Behavior > Site speed.

FIX THIS YOURSELF

Check to see if your site currently loads faster than the global mean (you can see this on your Compass dashboard or by using a website audit tool such as Plug In SEO). If your load time is worse than the mean, then work on optimizing your Javascript, CSS and HTML files.

Optimizing Javascript, CSS and HTML can be technically challenging even if you’re handy with HTML coding. Make a backup first, optimize it and test if your site works as usual. Then re-measure how your page speed has improved.

If you’ve implemented all of the best-practice suggestions here and your page speed is still slow, you’ll need to do some deeper analysis to determine where the bottlenecks are occurring.

Tools like YSlow and Google Page Speed Insights will help you in your analysis. However they require some technical knowledge of HTTP, HTML, Javascript and CSS.

At Compass we can instantly measure the impact that improving your Page Load Time could have on your store. All you have to do is sign up and connect your Google Analytics account. Click on the button below to learn more:

  • Daniel Sim

    Really interesting to see what we’ve believed to be true backed up by some real data science: great work!

    Speed is one of the things our users at Plug in SEO https://apps.shopify.com/plug-in-seo ask about a lot. Saving this to point them to as well!

  • Luxafor Technologies

    Thank you for your article, this is very useful!

  • Dan

    I’ve got the Plug in SEO app installed in my Shopify site (https://www.elementsforlife.co.uk) and its flagged a few things up to improve my speed. Now to get round and implement them!

  • It’s always being an great impact on website speed Vs Conversion rate … the site more optimize are more lovable to google ultimately get more traffic with more sales.

  • Look like so good. Informative expose, just what I was looking for.