Our attention spans are getting worse.
We’ve dropped 4 seconds, on average, over the last 20 years.
It’s got so bad that goldfish now have a better attention span than us. They boast a relatively impressive span of 9 seconds versus our now paltry 8.
What’s this got to do with anything?
Well, the implications of our ever-dwindling attention are now becoming clear in all manner of places. The world of websites and load times is one such example.
Essentially, a website must run quickly to be a success.
Our wickedly limited attention spans can’t cope with anything less than lightning fast. The effects of slowness are downright damaging.
How do you ensure your site will be quick enough? How do you build a fast loading website that’ll keep up with our goldfish-like brains?
Keep reading to find the answers.
First off though, let’s look at the potential dangers of a slow-loading site. We want to explain why it’s so important that your site runs quickly.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is key to success in Google.
Your pages and posts must rank well on SERPs in order for people to find your content. Is there any point creating something if no-one’s going to see it? No.
Nowadays, the load time of your site’s pages will impact your ranking. Slower speeds mean lower positions. This is because it affects the user experience.
Google wants to provide the best results to their users and knows that people prefer speediness. It can shove you down the rankings as a result.
That said, relevance trumps speed. A slow but relevant page, that’s well optimized, will still rank well.
Your site is slow. Your Google rankings suffer. And attention spans are limited.
That’s a recipe for disaster in terms of traffic.
It’s a vicious circle. Worse rankings mean fewer clicks to your site. Fewer clicks signal to Google that your site’s unpopular. It then gets pushed further down the rankings.
All sources of traffic suffer from slow load times. Paid, organic, search and social media traffic will all take a hit.
Your site will often be abandoned with a wait of 3 seconds or more.
A website only works with conversions. It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to achieve (subscribers, sales, followers…), hefty load times will damage your endeavours. You work hard to earn clicks to your site. But the click’s worthless if they click back after waiting too long.
You have literally no chance of converting if they never make it to your site.
The term ‘bounce’ describes someone leaving your site having seen only one page.
The bounce rate (BR) is a percentage that tells you how many visitors have done it. You want it to be as low as possible. Low bounce rates mean someone’s found enough value there to stay a while. The longer they stay, the more likely you are to convert.
It takes a fast site to reduce bounce rates.
In fact, BR increases by as much as 90% when your load time goes from 1 to 5 seconds. This is reason enough to speed your site up as much as possible!
Social media has become key to the growth and development of websites and brands.
That isn’t overstating things. In marketing, for instance, 80% of leads often come from social media marketing alone.
Unfortunately, slow websites impact your social media too. Facebook offers one example. A post with a fast link will be prioritized over slow ones. In essence, having a fast site gives you greater access to peoples’ newsfeeds.
We now know why we want to build a quick site. It’s time to consider what that means in practice.
Simply, what counts as quick? In essence, the quicker, the better.
But a better answer comes from the figures.
Google suggests a blisteringly fast load time of 1 second. That might seem unattainable, but any more and bounce rates go up. In one study, 75% of people wouldn’t return to a website that takes over 4 seconds to load.
To sum up, target 1 second, and use 4 seconds or less as a benchmark. You can use this free tool to test your speed.
We’ve been through the why and the what. On to the how.
Below you’ll find 6 essential tips for building a super-fast website.
People often opt for the cheapest hosting services when they start a new site.
It makes sense. You don’t know where things are going to go. To minimize risk, you try to limit initial costs. It’s logical. This may include purchasing the cheapest shared hosting option available.
But you often get what you pay for. Initially, it can be fine, but it’ll slow down over time as your site grows.
A nice and easy workaround is to simply purchase better hosting services. Go for a dedicated plan, or VPS. This way you won’t be sharing important resources such as bandwidth and RAM. Your site speed will improve as a result.
Large images play a large role in slowing down your website.
Be sure to optimize your photos before uploading them. Compress, or reduce the files to stop them slowing your site down too much. It’s a balance between reaching the smallest file size that doesn’t sacrifice image quality.
Graphics programs such as Photoshop and GIMP both allow you to do this.
A CDN is short for content distribution network.
This one is a bit more technical than other items on this list. It may be better to leave this to the experts if you’re new to websites. However, make the effort to learn, and CDNs can have a major impact on speeding up your site.
CDNs are server networks that store your site in multiple places at once.
The networks work together, sharing the delivery of your content depending on their geographical location. When someone accesses your site, the content is drawn from the server that’s closest to where they’re situated.
Imagine a phone signal. It’s like getting a better signal when you’re closer to the phone mast.
The word ‘cacher’ means ‘to hide’ in French.
Essentially, a cached site is hidden (stored) away when it’s been visited for the first time. Web pages often store static files (such as HTML documents) in what’s called a cache.
This means the files thereon don’t have to load from scratch when the page is visited again. The basic structure is there already. This drastically speeds up the load time.
You can install plugins (such as WP Super Cache) in WordPress that’ll enable caching.
However, browsers will often do it automatically. Try extending the length of time your cache will last for. Doing so will extend how long your site will load more quickly for users.
Changing your website structure will often cause page URLs to change.
Which means you lose the link juice from all the pages who linked to the previous URL.
You can use 301 redirects to solve this problem. Here, you literally redirect the page you wish to change to the new one. Clicking on the old URL will take you to the new one automatically. This is exceptionally helpful but should be used sparingly in the interest of site speed.
Every redirect slows down your site. A browser must pass through another link in the chain. This extra work requires more effort and time.
This one applies to WordPress users only.
Limit your use of plugins. Each additional plugin creates excessive numbers of extra files that slow down your website.
Some are necessary to develop your site. But use them sparingly.
Be sure to take steps whenever possible to minimize how many you have. For instance, the Google Analytics plugin can be swapped for tracking code in the site footer. Likewise, run periodical audits to see which plugins you’ve accrued. Delete the ones you no longer use.
This way you’ll ensure your site is running at maximum efficiency.
There you have it: the importance of a fast loading website and how to make it happen.
We’ve seen how the speed of your website is of utmost importance to its success. Slow sites mean fewer conversions, less traffic, damaged SEO, higher bounce rates, and social media struggles.
Aim for a site speed of under 4 seconds (where 1 second is best) for best results.
To get there, set about upgrading your hosting service, optimizing your images, using CDNs, leveraging caches, and limiting the use of 301 redirects, and WordPress plugins.
Do all this and you’ll be on your way to a speedy site in no time!
Now we’d like to hear from you.
And be sure to contact us for more on how our hosting options can help speed up your site.