The Quick and the Dead: Will Your Page Be Abandoned Before it Loads?

Page speed is not just a hot-button topic: it’s the big red nuclear button with ‘DANGER” written on it. It’s arguably the biggest conversion-killer on the internet.

The stat everyone quotes is that your load time needs to be under 3 seconds. “Forty percent of people abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load”–you’ve heard of that, right?

Unfortunately, things are never that simple.

Slow and Steady Loses the Race

Many marketers still think speed doesn’t matter.  They remember the story of the hare and the tortoise, where the speedy hare takes a nap in the middle of a race, letting the slow but steady tortoise reach the finish line first, and tell themselves that people are patient.

We can only assume they’ve never actually met people, because if they had, they’d know that ‘slow and steady’ is not the way of the internet.

Eat my dust tortoise.

These are, after all, the same people who complain when Breaking Bad takes too long to buffer on Netflix, and they’ve got a lot more investment in the story of Walter White than they have in your sales page.

The 3-second study was done back in 2011, and your viewers’ expectations have only got higher as attention spans get shorter.  With the growth of mobile browsing and not-always-reliable data bandwidth, the problem has grown further.

This is true of whatever you’re selling: if it doesn’t load fast enough, your customers will get bored and shop elsewhere.

So, what does this mean?  If 3 seconds isn’t fast enough, what is?

In the words of future prophet Avril Lavigne, ‘it’s complicated’. Let’s talk numbers.

The Stats of Speed

As early as 2018, Google – a company who know a thing or two about what people like on the internet – made page speed part of its ranking algorithm. In 2019, they conducted more tests, which showed that these days, 53% of mobile users will abandon a page if they’re forced to wait longer than 3 seconds – an even bigger traffic loss.

This was corroborated by a recent Diginow study, that found 47% of mobile users will abandon a page if they’re forced to wait more than 2 seconds.

The slower your page is, the higher your bounce rate:

Source: Google.

This matters. A lot. Why?

Your prospects never even got a look at your page before they decided to click off. No messaging, no marketing, none of it hit their eyeballs. Your gorgeous page design? The perfect headline, that mouth-watering copy?

It’s not necessarily that they don’t work.  It’s that they were never even seen. Your clicks are being wasted, for the sake of a few seconds.

Cruel? Absolutely. But that’s life. If there had been predators around in the time of the Tortoise and the Hare, things would have ended differently. Tortoise soup would still be hot by the time Hare got over the line to safety. On the internet, the biggest predator is your prospects’ boredom threshold. And it’s snarfing up 53% of your traffic before you’ve left the gate.

This is true across every device.  A 2017 Akamai study showed even a 100ms slowdown can damage conversions by 2.4% on desktop and 7.1% on mobile:

A literal fraction of a second: 100ms. It doesn’t sound like much, and it’s even less than that.  Try this quick experiment: click your mouse. Done it?  Good.

That single click, and just the click, took you about 250ms.  Two and a half times longer.  That tiny amount of speed increase caused conversions to bump up. There is some good news here.

Because people are wising up to how important page speed is, a lot of tools have come out to help you test how fast your pages are. Google’s Page Speed Insights is probably the best known, but there’s several out there, including GT Metrix and Pingdom.

These free tools let you enter your URL and they’ll show you how you score against a range of best-practice advice.  They’ll see what you’re doing and give you a score out of 100 to rate how many of the page speed boxes you’re ticking. Which would be great… except everyone uses them wrong.

Can A Page Be Too Fast?

Believe it or not… yes. Don’t get me wrong – there’s no magic number. But page speed isn’t just about the speed.  It’s also about the page.

That Akamai survey found the highest conversions on pages that loaded in 1.8 seconds – but not because 1.8 seconds is ‘special’.  Because 1.8 seconds was the fastest people could generally make their sites while still containing all the stuff they needed to convert.  You can absolutely make your page faster and score better on Page Speed Insights by removing your sales video… but that’s not going to help you make more money.

So while page speed metric tools are useful to see what you could do to improve, you shouldn’t be obsessed with hitting a perfect 100. You should work out what your page needs to do to convert your prospect – and then getting obsessed with optimizing that as much as possible.

Here’s 4 good ways of making your page move more like the hare, and less like the tortoise.

Optimize Images

An image may be worth a thousand words, but in terms of load speed you can add a few zeroes on to that and still come up short. Everyone wants their pages to beautiful, but the fact is – that gorgeous high-def background of a guy on top of a mountain is making your page move like it’s being dragged through a swamp.

And this time, it’s really not just about the ‘big’ picture.  Every product shot, every testimonial headshot… all of them are adding to the load. Fortunately, there’s two things you can do to make your images move a bit more like that soaring eagle and a bit less like a dead rhinoceros.

Use Lossless Optomization

Images contain a whole load of data that you don’t really need.  Yes, it gives a nice buzz to say there’s sixteen million pixels but the human eye simply can’t perceive that many. Obviously this isn’t a manual job, but there’s lots of tools available to do it for you.

Use Actual Dimensions

Browsers are not known for being smart. You might think that even if you’re not doing any optimisation, your images won’t affect the page that much.  Sure, they started as huge images, but on the page you’ve sized them to be tiny!

Sorry, Virginia.  It doesn’t work like that. The browser doesn’t work out how big the image should be until after it loads it. So that 6MB image?  Every time a prospect hits your page, it’s loading the whole thing, then scaling it to be a 250×250 paragraph illustration. So instead, work out how big your images are going to be on your site.  Scale them first – you can use Photoshop, or a cheaper program like PixelMator – then upload them to your server.

That way, the browser only loads what it needs, and your page moves faster.

Server Response Time

Server Response Time is how long it takes for your server to start delivering the HTML. It’s the time between the browser turning up and banging on the door, and the server blearily appearing, cup of coffee in hand, saying “What?” The ideal is less than 200ms – which is about the time it takes for your finger to lift from the mouse button after you’ve heard a click. In a world where a 2-second SRT isn’t unusual – ten times slower than it should be – this is a pretty aggressive target.

There’s lots of things that could be slowing your server down.  Slow application logic, slow database queries, slow routing, resource and memory starvation… the list goes on, and if you’re using commercial hosting, there’s not much you can do about it at your end.

A CDN is a content delivery network.  A network of servers in multiple data centres, all across the world. This means rather than being served from a single location, your page is served from a full network of servers – whichever one is closest to your customer will take the load. And since CDNs are designed to deliver content quickly, their servers are specially designed for this purpose. A CDN isn’t something you’ll be able to build yourself (unless you’ve got a truly top-notch tech team at your back), but there’s plenty of commercial providers available.

Caching

As anyone who’s ever let their partner look at their search history can tell you, browsers have a worryingly long memory. And you can use that to your advantage.

Essentially, the browser can be told: “This bit of the website?  That won’t change.  Just remember it for next time.” That means for things like background images that don’t change much, you can tell the browser to just remember them.  When your viewer comes back, it won’t need to download that content all over again, because it’ll already have a copy in memory. And this means when someone clicks on one of your retargeting ads, the page loads even faster than it did when they first arrived. Which is a pretty slick impression to make. You can set cache times for each resource in your site in the HTTP header.  There’s an explanation of how to do it here, but be warned, it gets a bit technical. 

(Pro tip: this is one of the areas that focusing too much on page speed metrics can trip you up.  On most items, you want a nice long cache.  But on some – like, for example, your analytics – you really don’t.  But metric-checkers can’t tell the difference, and mark you down for them all just the same.)

Minify Code

When good code gets written, it’ll look a bit like this:

Just like any writing, code should be easy to read when you know the language.  So you give your variables easily understood names.  You separate your functions with whitespace.  You put actions on new lines.  When a human looks at code like that, they can read it.

Computers don’t care about any of that.  They don’t need a function to be named ‘RevString’ when ‘a’ will do.  ‘RevString’ has nine times as many characters, so the only difference it makes is that it takes them 9 times longer to read.

This means every unnecessary character, every line break, every bit of white space in your HTML – they’re all slowing the computer reading your page down.

When they eventually rise up to take control of humanity, maybe that’ll be a good thing.  But today, you want to be generating more sales so you can build that bunker that’ll let you sit the war out in comfort, amirite?

(And let’s face it, making our future overlords lives a bit easier now can only be a good thing) So to make sure your page can be read as fast as possible, your code needs to be minified, which basically means turn what you see above into something more like this:

That’s not much use to us, but a computer will tear through it faster than Arnie tears through a police station.

Get Faster Pages the Easy Way

Of course, it’s one thing reading about the technical details of getting better page speed (and the huge improvement in conversions it can deliver). Actually doing it yourself is a whole different proposition.

But there are easier ways.

We developed the Accelerated Page Technology that powers Convertri’s pages precisely to make sure anyone could have lightning-fast load times, even if they don’t have a tech team stuffed in their back pocket.

As well as the four points covered above, it also uses page pre-generation, inline coding, cuts server requests down to the bare minimum, origin shielding and GZIP compression, as well as many more tweaks and optimizations to ensure your pages move faster than any other.

And we don’t rely on metrics for our testing.  We run real-world experiments, creating the kind of landing page you’re actually going to be using, with images, video and forms.  We make this page in a variety of builders and test the load times using Pingdom, to make sure the real-world performance of our pages is as fast as we can make it.

The results… well, we don’t like to brag…

(That is a lie we love to brag.)

Simply put, we’ve made sure your sales pages in Convertri are faster than the same page built anywhere else.

And the best part is that you can try this for yourself. 

Join the internet quick, not the internet dead.