We’re all getting less and less patient online – and rightly so. There’s no real excuse to wait anymore. Google’s search utility has now become so advanced that it’s often quicker for us to back out of a slow loading site and find another option, instead of just waiting.
You can also look at it from the perspective of the webmaster or digital marketer at the business. With Google using site speed as a ranking factor in search results – hours and hours are being spent shaving off a kilobyte here and there in the hope of retaining a position on page one.
So with this sort of introduction, I’m sure you’ll be expecting this article to have a pretty conclusive answer. Well, that’s not strictly true.
It all comes down to subjectivity
A couple of weeks ago, Google announced a new(ish) tool that elegantly displays your website’s mobile friendliness, mobile speed and desktop speed. This sort of information isn’t new to us, as it has been available through the Google Developers PageSpeed Insights for a couple of years – along with an advanced breakdown.
However, what this tool does well is give you a top-level look at your website performance. You can also request a more detailed report to your email – which offers recommendations and improvements in language that pretty much anyone can understand.
The issue, however, is that these utilities often give you a very ‘technical’ result – but fail to take into consideration how this translates in the real world and the search behaviour of users for that individual website.
You’re searching for a local photographer to hire for an upcoming event. As the quality of their images acts as the backbone of their business, is it not safe to assume you would be more forgiving to wait a second for the portfolio to load?
Sure – you’re not going to wait 30 seconds for a gallery to load, but there’s certainly a line that needs to be drawn between achieving an acceptable load speed and maintaining high quality looking content and delivering what the user expects. The key word being “acceptable.”
What you must remember is that the mobile experience and behaviour is often very different to desktop. Desktop and mobile should always be treated differently.
What looks great on a desktop may be completely unnecessary on a mobile. What you would consider ‘acceptable’ on a desktop may be unacceptable on a mobile. Your customers may be less forgiving when visiting your site on a mobile device due to the nature of the format.
Get it together, Google
Using Google’s very own site speed tool at the time of writing, “www.google.co.uk” wasn’t able to achieve a perfect score and the tool itself only achieved scores of 93 and 95 out of 100 for mobile and desktop speed.
No matter how much you optimise your website – it will always require improvement. You can keep compressing your images until they’re no longer recognisable, but you could always technically compress it further.
Relatively speaking, streamlining code creates insignificant improvements to your site speed compared with the benefits of compressing images and video content. What you need to remember is that the more you package up and streamline your code, the more time is required to make changes. A great analogy would be that it’s easy to pack everything into one suitcase when you’re travelling – but it’s a pain if you’ve left your passport at the bottom of it.
Recommendations aren’t strictly universal. You must always consider the function of your business’ website, your customer behaviour and your ability to make continual speed improvements.
Evolution of Google
I’ve said this before and I will keep saying this – the Internet has become and will continue to become more and more visual. One of the key reasons for this is because of how accessible the creating and sharing of visual content is.
Internet speeds are so much faster than they were 6 years ago. More people are using high speed fibre optic connections. 5G mobile internet is actually happening. Beautiful photography is so much more accessible and YouTube has completely changed the way we use video online.
As Google evolves, it is taking all of this into consideration. Search isn’t as black and white as it was several years ago. Sure, you might be achieving a 70/100 for desktop load speed – but this isn’t necessarily going to impact your ranking if your site has a low bounce rate and plenty of conversions.
E-commerce giants, such as Amazon, are famed for their reliability and accessibility as a one-stop-shop. Because of this, it is estimated that each second of delay for Amazon is met with a 7% reduction in conversions.That equates to roughly $1.6bn in lost revenue per year. (No, that’s not even a typo).
This is very extreme example – but certainly an example worth highlighting.
This also takes us back to my previous point about subjectivity. Amazon has been able to identify its customers habits and expectations towards Amazon as a service. However, the buying behaviour of your customers may be completely different.
Going forward, what Google is trying to do is change everyone’s mind-set and habits towards site speed. Unless your website takes an unacceptable amount of time to load and is clearly impacting your website and sales performance, it probably isn’t worth worrying about for the time being.
So how important is your site speed in 2016? Just as important as a few years ago - but definitely different.
We must all move forward with the correct attitude and understanding, so as Internet speeds get even faster; our sites get faster too – not the other way round.
If you would like to understand more about how your website is performing, why not come along to our next Marketing Leaders Lunch.