How important is website speed? If you’re selling products or services on the web, it’s hard to overstate its impact.
Customers, particularly those on mobile (who now outnumber desktop/laptop search), have little patience for pages that take longer than five seconds for a page to load on a smartphone. Nearly 75 percent abandon a page that’s still loading at that point and the abandonment rate (called bounce rate in the analytics world) rises with each additional nanosecond.
The Difference Between Website Speed and Page Load Time
Website and page speed, or load times, are related metrics that measure your website’s overall performance.
- Website speed refers to how quickly users can move from page to page, once they are on a website.
- Page load speed refers to how quickly each page downloads to the device, including the critical landing page a consumer visits first.
Google has long advocated a two-second page load target, and since Google pretty much rules web search, it’s a good resource to listen to. While this is just one of the thousands of algorithms (perhaps more!) Google uses to rank sites, it looks at site abandonment as a metric as well. Put simply, if a consumer gets to a website but the pages take too long to load, you’re losing potential and perhaps even existing customers.
If consumers can’t reach a website within four seconds, they will probably abandon the effort – a fate even worse than a high bounce rate. Once on the site, visitors expect to be able to quickly navigate to specific pages, which is the site speed. If it’s slow, they will leave.
How to Check Page Speed and Website Performance
Google offers two free services that track both page load and website speed.
- Open a Google Webmaster account. Under the Tools tab, look for Crawl and Crawl Stats displayed in a graph labeled Time Spent Downloading a Page. Look at the average value.
- Google Analytics includes a Speed Report that measures just one percent of your site traffic. Increase the Site Speed Sample Rate to at least 50%.
Google’s tools are great, but they are kind of overwhelming if you aren’t reasonably well-versed in website performance metrics. If you have a WordPress or WooCommerce site, you can get a pretty robust report for free from SunnyHQ. While we love Google (really!), our reports are targeted specifically for WordPress performance and are very user-friendly.
In addition to offering an easy solution to the question how to check website speed, we offer clear, actionable recommendations to strengthen your website, including search engine optimization, sharing content on social media, and beefing up content.
Tools to Boost Page Loads and Website Speed
Caching is one way to boost page load speed, but it only works for subsequent visits. When visitors reach your site, the pages they land on are cached, or copied, into their browsers and remain there until there are changes on each cached page. Caching is still a good idea because it greatly reduces the time browsers need to find a site if a saved page is already there.
Do you have a lot of graphics on your site? That’s great, but keep in mind that they take up more space than written content and will slow down page load speed. Be sure to compress them with one of WordPress’ plugins like WPSmush, which is free!
If you use videos, don’t add them directly to your site. Instead, link them to video hosting sites like YouTube, Vimeo, or BrightCove.