Is Your Website Your Own Worst Enemy?
March 10, 2017
One of my favorite things is obscure foreign colloquialisms that accurately describe commonplace emotions or actions, that defy English definition. Currently, the Danish word Hygge is all the cozy rage and describes the feeling of warm contentment derived from enjoying the simple pleasures in life. Schadenfreude, the act of taking pleasure from another person’s misfortune, is another example, which makes me think: there has to be a word for when your website causes you to lose customers.
That beautiful and expensive site you invested in a few years ago is conspiring against your SEO and PPC efforts and in this post, we will delve into how you can undo some of the treachery. Specifically, we will look at the following areas of betrayal:
- Site speed
- Image & media content
- Broken or excessive code
- Mobile experience
Site Speed & Load Time
Site speed is the length of time it takes for a web browser to download the content of a website from the hosting site. While load time references the length of time after the user clicks or enters a URL for the content of a website to load and be visible. In 2010, Google made site speed a ranking factor in their SERP algorithms, in addition to many other factors, like landing page relevancy, external links to the page and number of baby animal photos.
Site speed and load time are crucial factors in online performance for both lead gen and ecommerce businesses. For example, the digital performance management company, Soasta, published an analysis that showed even 1 second of reduced page load time can equate to 27% increase in conversion rate.
So, what is considered a “good time”? The most prevalent answer across most studies is around 2 – 6 seconds, but this might not a universal answer. Your product might be time inelastic. This is a twist on an economic term, price inelastic, usually referring to goods or services that have very little change in demand when the price fluctuates. In my adoption of this term, time inelastic means that you might have a grace period of load time because you have a unique product that is unavailable elsewhere, or your audience is conditioned to long wait times, or you have content that is consistently high quality and worth the time to load. For instance, I have a client that repairs heavy duty machinery and their website has shown a larger window of load time is still considered acceptable to the audience of users that desperately need those services.
However, this theory only applies to a rare subset of businesses. There are many stats that show consumers are increasingly impatient: 40% of people abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load, 52% of online shoppers state that quick site speed is a factor in brand loyalty, and 79% of online shoppers will not return to a site to buy again if they had a poor website experience.
Luckily, Google has a robust, free tool that will identify the many ways your site is holding you back and tips for how to remedy the issue.
Web developers are familiar with the very technical issues of complex scripts, third party tools, and plugins that cause delays. Additionally, there might be issues with the responsiveness of your web host. In general, there are quite a few improvements that can be made to a site if you have a working knowledge of programming language. Nevertheless, we will focus on some of the more basic and common sources of site speed deception that are a little easier to understand.
Optimize Image & Other Media
This is a sensitive topic for business owners since websites are such a visual medium it is hard to resist the temptation to saddle a page with as many stunning, colorful images as possible. These beautiful images and videos require a lot of bandwidth to load their many pixels and large file sizes, which adds superfluous seconds to site speed. The solution is to compress the file size of your images and reevaluate the necessity of all the visuals on your site.
There are many free image compression websites available online, such as Compressor.io, but be warned that you are uploading your proprietary images to a free online tool, there is no guarantee that your image is not going to become a part of a database of stock images. If you want to invest some money on something a little more private, you could try Kraken.
Cut The Clutter Code
There is a plethora of wonderful tools and plugins that can help make a website look better or make social sharing easier. There are tools that can help you target what files are the largest and therefore, require the most load time, such as OctaGate Site Timer.
If you use some of these plugins and find they are valuable, please proceed! But occasionally, we add a new and shiny feature, but do not evaluate the end result. An audit of all the widgets, plugins and special features of your site can be a healthy exercise every year to make sure your site is not loading unnecessary code.
Another type of clutter that can hinder site performance, is affiliate ads. The code needed to launch the ads can add loading time for your customer, but it can also degrade the experience once on the site itself. The revenue that is generated by featuring affiliate ads must be evaluated with possible loss of revenue due to slower website navigation.
Reduce The Number Of Redirects
Remember during the Oscars when LaLa Land was announced as Best Picture, but the real winner was Moonlight and as the drama unfolded, we the audience were baffled, confused and tired after a 3+ hour show? That is kind of like what a redirect feels like to your browser.
A redirect is a when your site gives instructions to take you to automatically take you to another web address. Common reasons for redirects include when you change URLs, or you want to redirect people that forget to type in the “www.” into the URL bar, or if you have multiple domains to protect your brand. Nevertheless, redirects can take additional time for browsers to read and process. Recommendations include removing redirect chains, reducing the volume of internal links that point to other URLs (which you see a lot of here today!), and eliminating unneeded redirects. Further guidance for applying these recommendations can be found here.
Create Mobile Friendly Pages
In 2015, while we were trying still recovering from multiple plays of Adele’s album, Google was tweaking their search algorithm to give preferential treatment to sites that are mobile friendly.
The gentle push from Google was necessary as 65% of US citizens own mobile devices and a good mobile experience keeps the masses happy. Mobile friendly sites need to be scaled down to the screen size of a mobile device, all forms and widgets must be easier to use without involving scrolling, zooming or pinching. There are many behind the scene factors that make a good mobile experience, such as, minifying code, using browser caching and having fewer images on a mobile site. Some of these recommendations can be found in a report generated by Google that tests mobile site speed, which can be found here.
Your website is often your customers’ first interaction with your brand and no one wants to wait to learn more. It is counterintuitive, but users would rather leave a slow site with the right content to check other sites that give them less quality but at a faster rate. A conversation with your web developers can make your site more efficient and easier to access, which will ultimately lead to more customer engagement.
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