If until 2010 having a slow site was normal and did little damage, if not to the visitor’s patience and the user experience, today it has to be avoided at all costs, especially for a company focusing on e-commerce (which does not only means managing an e-store).
In fact, in the last ten years, with the growing importance of browsing from mobile devices, page loading speed has become increasingly important, becoming one of the key factors for ranking in the search results. A role that has been confirmed by the new challenge launched by Google with the algorithms introduced in May 2021 by the Google Page Experience update, making loading times and reactivity the key parameters against which it is necessary to measure.
Underestimating them and neglecting to improve website speed, especially from mobile, can potentially have devastating effects on the effectiveness of even the most refined marketing strategy, with direct impacts, as well as turnover, on:
- the positioning in the SERP, whose key factor is indeed speed, a focal point as well for SEO;
- users’ abandon rate;
- conversions and the cart’s final value in case of web purchase.
A few numbers would help to understand. While loading times from 1 to 3 seconds result in an abandon rate of 32%, if the times are extended up to 6 seconds the bounce rate reaches 106%. On the contrary, a tenth of a second of greater speed translates into an increase in conversions of up to 10% and a greater cart value, always around 10%.
Tools to measure a website’s speed
It is therefore clear that optimising website performance is a competitive element that can no longer be neglected and must always be kept under control with the many tools available on the Internet. But be careful: it is not enough to have a fast site, it must always be the fastest to gain positions in the SERP or not to lose the current one and better respond to the needs of visitors and therefore customers. This does not mean that quality and accuracy of the content provided, whether articles or media, are not important. As always “content is the king”, but if the content is unreachable or not very usable it is in fact of little use if not useless. Every effective web marketing strategy and every successful SEO plan must take both aspects into consideration.
Online there are several tools to perform a website’s performance test and understand if and to what extent it is necessary to intervene to reduce the loading time. Here are the main ones:
- Google Pagespeed. It is the reference tool to analyse a website speed, as it is very attentive to the parameters privileged by one of the largest, if not the main, search engines in the world. It allows you to differentiate the results between desktop and mobile browsing, and also provides recommendations for optimising the page. The speed metric is based on two values. The first one is the First Contentful Paint which essentially measures the page loading time and it is the first of the three new Core Web Vitals introduced by the Google Page Experience update. The other parameter is the DOM Content Loaded which evaluates the time needed to analyse the HTML code;
- GTmetrix. It is a more complete tool than the previous one and allows for broader analyses, also extended to other search engines. It allows you to vary the geo-localisation, or to test the performance in different countries, to compare the loading of different pages and the performance of the site on multiple browsers. At the end, it also provides a report with all the information on the assessed page. Among the various parameters considered there are some interesting and functional ones such as the Fully Loaded Time, that is the seconds needed for complete loading of the page, the Total Page Size, which evaluates the weight of the tested page, Requests, that is how many requests to the server were directed during the page load;
- Pingdom. It does not differ much from the previous one in terms of functionality, except that it is equipped with an interface full of practical tables, effective and pleasant, increasing its usability and making it immediate and simple.
Here are some tips to speed up a slow site
And what if the analytics data tells us that the site has problems in response times and in the loading process, in short, it is slow? Below you will find a short guide to optimise performance, but with a warning. Each problem has a solution which, however, does not necessarily fully guarantee the desired result, unless advanced tools capable of managing cache optimisation and management tasks are used. They should be taken into consideration for complex or multi-country sites and pure e-commerce showcases.
Let us see in detail the solutions that can help improve website speed:
- Decrease the size of the images and their resolution in every part of the site, including any blog;
- Compress resources;
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) or a system of computers connected to the network that shortens the distances between server and user, decreasing latency and loading times. CDN is particularly useful for distributing larger media such as videos and other multimedia files;
- Activate browser caching for those elements that are repeated in multiple pages. The reference file remains on the user’s computer and does not need to be reloaded each time with new requests to the server;
- Eliminate redirects from internal links and any redirected web resources;
- Choose suitable hosting services and servers, ensuring good performance.
Once these interventions have been carried out, it is good to check the result and later test the site. Site updates with new content could in fact significantly affect performance and require new interventions.
The speed of the site is not something acquired once and for all, but it must be taken care of and implemented continuously and carefully.
If speed has always been important, it is now a key competitive factor. For an online company, ignoring it does not mean becoming slow, it means being out of the game.
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Do you know the first rule for e-commerce? Here it is: “if users can’t find a product, they cannot even buy it”. Full stop. And breaking this simple rule is easy, even without knowing it. You only need an item poorly displayed in the digital showcase, described with insufficient information or hard to reach due to a slow website, to blow up even the most refined branding, marketing and communication strategies.
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