How fast your webpage loads is an incredibly important factor in how successful your website is. A slow website creates a bad user experience no matter how great it looks, or how interesting the content is. I don’t know about you, but if I visit a website and it takes forever to load, I just go to a different website.
Research has shown that people leave a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Conversion rates apparently (and unsurprisingly) suffer too – for every extra second of page load speed, conversion rates drop by 7% on average.
It’s not just common sense that makes page speed important either. Google uses Page Speed as a ranking factor because people care how long it takes for a page to load. So a faster site will rank higher in search engine results, and therefore likely get more traffic too.
Measuring Page Speed
While all of this is compelling enough to make you want to improve your page speed, there is a simple problem to overcome before you get started. There are many ways to measure page speed – so which one do you improve?
The answer is (of course) all of them. However understanding the different types of page speed helps you to diagnose problems and target your efforts.
To begin diagnosing your page speed though, you need to measure it first. There are some helpful stats baked into Google Analytics in the behaviour section, and that’s a good place to get started. I personally like GTMetrix.com to measure page speed as it offers helpful break downs and you can set reports to be emailed to you periodically (for free!).
Types of Page Speed
These aren’t all the ways to measure page speed, but these are the most important ones to understand (in my opinion anyway).
- Time To First Byte (TTFB) – This is how long it takes for a server to respond to a request for a webpage. If this is taking a long time, then the problem lies with your webhost.
- First Paint / First Contentful Paint – These are ways to measure when a blank page first starts showing any sort of content. A blank page is the most sure-fire way to drive away users, so making sure your webpages start ‘painting’ as soon as possible is vital.
- Onload Time / Fully Loaded Time – These are ways to measure how long it takes to fully load a page. By making sure you don’t put any unneccesary elements on a page, you can ensure it finishes loading faster. You should also optimise your images (by making the file sizes smaller) and minify your code when possible.
- Avg. Page Load Time – This is the way that Google Analytics measures page speed, and as you want Google to like you for SEO reasons, you should take this seriously. Average Page Load Time, is unsurprisingly, an average – with Google Analytics measuring page speed over multiple page views and averaging them out.