3 reasons why Website Performance matters

3 reasons why Website Performance matters

How to explain Website Performance simply and effectively? Obviously, the idea is to make a website fast and accessible. But how, and to what effect? This article covers three key areas impacted by web performance: user experience, conversion and search engine optimisation - areas that influence your customer success far past what simple stats would suggest.

Photo of a yellow sports car

Imagine a situation where a car manufacturer releases a new model to market. The car is built with attention to detail, with a fantastic design, made of the best materials... but uses yesterday’s engine mounted under the hood. This last detail drastically weakens its performance, resulting in little interest in the product. Despite the huge expenses incurred in marketing and promoting the car, prospective customers lose interest from the moment they hop in for a test ride and step on the pedal… only to start looking for a better deal.

A similar situation is reflected in areas related to website design and marketing, where we don’t usually think of “looking under the hood”, but the effects are there all the same. Marketing specialists focus on so many aspects of websites: content, aesthetics, picking the perfect fonts, or finding the most compelling words for call-to-action buttons, while sadly turning a blind eye to the engine that makes these features leap out at you - i.e. web performance.

When talking about performance, there are some essential questions to be answered: does the page load fast? Can the user see your content quickly enough? Can the user start interacting with the page without delay? Does the page feel sprightly, or does the user feel a lag?

Excellent website performance means that users don’t have to wait to view and interact with your pages, to deliver up the info they need. These elements work on the “instant gratification” principle, keeping your visitors engaged and responsive, because if a site takes too long to load, users will leave before the main attraction. And this in turn will have a direct impact on increasing the undesired “bounce rate”, visitors who come but don’t stay.

Bounce rate chart

According to Google, as page load time goes from 1 second to 3, the chance of bounce increases by 32%. But as page load delay increases to 6s, the likelihood of bounce ups to a whopping 106%.

So we can fairly say these users didn’t even stick around to see if they’re satisfied - all that design effort gone to waste. Improving your website performance can help increase your user’s first experience when they hit your website - and we all know the motto about “you only get one chance to make a good first impression”. Excellent performance is part of getting them in the door, and once there lets you offer up a great user experience.

So if web performance leads to faster user engagement and better UX, we can certainly expect it to increase users’ browsing time on the website, giving you the chance to feel them out and offer them what they need - improving conversions and boosting sales.

It’s clear that if web performance allows users to concentrate on your product/service without worrying about page loads and an awkward navigation experience, it’s a crucial conversion factor. Users will be more likely to visit more pages to view your products or to read more articles - what we might call “site velocity” or “browsing efficiency”. This also increases the chances of the users coming back to your e-shop or blog - everybody likes a fitted out responsive car, and while a snappy business website isn’t quite as sexy, it leaves a certain unstated impression.

Conversion rate chart

According to Cloudflare, the quicker a webpage loads, the more likely a user is to perform the targeted action on that webpage.

The impact of website performance on conversion rates is of great importance when we look at the big players in the e-commerce market.

  • Walmart found that for every 1 second improvement in page load time, conversions increased by 2%
  • COOK increased conversions by 7% by reducing page load time just 0.85 seconds
  • Mobify found that each 100ms improvement in their homepage's load time resulted in a 1.11% increase in conversion

The above-mentioned increases in conversion may not seem so spectacular. However, when we compare these percentages with the actual revenue generated from an e-commerce site, it turns out that improving your page load time by 1 second can increase your revenue measurably.

As an example, if a page load speedup of 1 second helps conversion by 2%, a store that generates $10 million a year adds $200K more - not exactly chump change. Makes you think twice before saying, “wait just a second”.

Expert opinions around Search Engine Optimization are divided, often seeming contradictory. On the one hand, some positioners stubbornly claim that page speed (time to load) is crucial for good positioning of a website, while other voices claim there’s no direct correlation between speed and place in search results.

To check for a direct link between position in search results and the Google Page Insight score for a given page, you should perform a very simple test. Below I list the results displayed in the TOP 10 for three sample phrases, along with the Google Page Insight score for each of the items.

  customer data platform marketing automation digital experience manager
Page position Google Page Insight score
1 52 87 65
2 75 97 70
3 45 80 82
4 51 47 58
5 73 77 89
6 60 60 65
7 77 66 41
8 34 49 90
9 8 56 61
10 52 86 84
[Items shaded green are the best scores according to Google Page Insight, while red denotes the worst.]

As you can see, it’s difficult to say unequivocally that the website performance test proves a direct impact on the website’s position in search results - results show some pages with worse performance scores appearing higher up in search results than those whose performance rated much higher.

So why do we suggest better performance in general leads to a better position in search results? Largely because Google site position doesn’t depend only on the ratings displayed in PageSpeed.

Stated simply, good performance by itself is not a sufficient condition for better rankings; however it’s a necessary condition for our website to appear consistently higher over time.

Plus Website performance matters for SEO because it matters to Google - it’s one of their most important ranking factors. This means that web pages that load faster on have a better chance of Google ranking them higher in search results, which in turn makes it easier for web users to discover these websites when using Google search.

In general, web crawlers for Google and other search engines view websites that have snappier performance in their test results as websites users will enjoy visiting, and so the sites get rewarded with higher rankings. It may not be completely fair, but what in life is?

Marketing departments tend to put an enormous effort into wowing with aesthetic design and new features & functionality, while spending a fortune on A/B testing, paid traffic and conversion testing, still wondering why their results aren’t more impressive.

The truth is that website users pay more attention to performance - consciously or not - than to all the bells and whistles added to the websites. This is analogous to the new car model mentioned at the beginning of the article. If you don’t manage performance expectations from the start, all efforts and expenses incurred in marketing persuasion will be largely wasted or at least disappointing.

Performance matters until it doesn’t. It affects your user experience, it affects your sales and conversions, it affects your search ranking. Once you’ve taken care of performance necessities, you can then turn towards the Web design aspects that dominate most conversations. Until then, your visitors are still in the market for a new car.