Two people looking at phones

Need for Page Speed: Winning Searches and Customers

The reckoning for slow sites in mobile search has begun. On July 9th, Google announced that its page load speed update is being rolled out to all users. After months of anticipation, the search engine has officially connected the dots between mobile user experience and search ranking performance. Page speed is a mobile search ranking factor.


According to Google, a small percentage of queries will be impacted, only affecting the slowest sites on the internet. It may be some time before we fully see the impact of this update. However, the real message is clear.


Fast sites are no longer a best practice, but the price of admission to success in the expectation economy. Data has long stated that fast digital experiences are the most profitable and successful within their market. However, Google has added another layer of motivation to this arena with the update.


Website speed optimization may be a confounding challenge for many marketers. It touches so many disciplines within an organization: developers, marketing managers, media specialists, and more. Surprisingly, page speed improvements often manage to fall outside of everyone's day-to-day mandates. Here's what you need to know about becoming a successful champion for page load speed and your organization's digital success.


Why does page load speed matter?

One of the first challenges to improving mobile page speed is securing buy-in with your teammates and executives. You'll be off to a good start when you can prove that page load speed impacts everyone by way of the bottom line.


For years, research has indicated that users expect web pages to load in two seconds or less. Here's where it gets interesting, according to longstanding data from Gomez (Compuware):

  • After three seconds, 40% of your users may abandon the page and the site.
  • For every one second delay in page load time, page views decline by 11%, and conversions fall 12%.

Page load speed doesn't just impact user expectations. It impacts customer relationships. 75% of online shoppers who experience a site with slow load times, freezes, or complicated checkout process stated they would no longer buy from that site.


Conversely, iProspect clients have seen the benefits of page speed improvements. For example, one Fortune 100 client implemented page load speed improvements in late January 2018. In conjunction with ongoing marketing efforts, the improvements primarily reduced image and CSS file sizes. Here’s what happened in the quarter following the improvements:


  • 11% Quarter over Quarter (QoQ) average page load speed improvement for all users
  • 20% QoQ average page load speed improvement for mobile users
  • 13% QoQ increase in Page 1 organic search keyword rankings
  • 64% QoQ increase in total site traffic
  • 62% QoQ increase in total site goal completions

As Google's mobile page speed update matures in-market, you could see more direct impact between mobile page speed, your brand’s organic visibility, and bottom line performance as well.


How should you measure page load speed?

An old saying tells us that “a problem well-stated is a problem already half-solved”. To improve page load speed, it's helpful to know what exactly you're trying to improve! There are five particular metrics we examine when working with page speed times. It's also important to note that one data point by itself isn't incredibly useful, until we place it in the context of both historical and well-rounded data.


Google's page speed score

Google's page speed score is a great introduction for newcomers to page load speed. It's a score of 1 to 100 (100 is the best possible score) measuring page speed on both mobile and desktop devices. You can plug in the site of your choice here. This website load test is great for easy competitive benchmarking, and a fast temperature check anytime, anywhere. Below, we can see page load speed presents challenges for everyone, household names included!

Nike Page Speed Insights


The Fantastic Four: Firsts and Lasts

The seasoned marketer or SEO services professional will quickly note there's more to page load speed than high level performance monitoring. That's why we dive deeper into page load speed data, with these four key metrics:

  1. First Byte
  2. First Paint
  3. DOM Load
  4. Full Load

It's okay if you're not familiar these terms; these are industry metrics you can master with practice and study. First byte is straightforward; it's the amount of time a real browser took to receive the first byte of data from your server. It's quite important: even if you made intense efforts to reduce large image file sizes, it won’t matter if your server is slow to respond to requests.


Did you know that perceived performance is just as important as the real thing? This is where first paint comes in. The first meaningful paint is the time where the main content of your page is visible to the user, and they can begin to see the page they want. This metric is closely followed by DOM Load, or simply put as the time the user can begin interacting with your page.


The full page load of course, is when all files, scripts, and resources on-page have loaded for your user. So what constitutes a good page load time to shoot for?


What's a good page load speed today?

Above, users tell us two seconds is the time to beat. Google agrees. Multiple Google employees have publicly stated two to three seconds is the maximum time your site should take to load. Your digital experiences, mobile and desktop, should meet this standard.


For another iProspect client, meeting this standard has also resulted in significant business wins. This household brand has improved its page load speed up to a First Paint and DOM load sit at 1.1 seconds and 2.1 seconds, respectively.


To achieve this, the page speed improvements required a long process of collaboration with in-house technology teams, updates to JavaScript management and code compression, among other technical improvements and SEO initiatives. The business wins? A 134% increase in monthly Page 1 keyword rankings and a 29% increase in monthly organic traffic.


How can you improve page load speed?

Are you ready to dig into your site performance? Website testing tools like Pingdom are great for information gathering, but you don't just need information, you need insights for action. Here are a few popular page load speed tools at iProspect:


  1. Google Lighthouse Chrome Extension - a lightweight tool that provides great detail on everything from mobile-friendliness to usability, and more.
  2. GTMetrix - a popular workhorse tool that runs multiple deep dive tests, and provides you granular resources to fix, and links to explainer help articles.
  3. - This stalwart tool is often cited by Google Search Analysts, and provides powerful waterfall charts that help you quickly understand the specific files and issues holding back your page load speed.
  4. PageSpeed Insights- The beloved tool developed by Google that provides the page speed score mentioned earlier. This tool has recently received some great enhancements that provide marketers with more data and insights to boost their optimization efforts.
  5. You - You are the best tool you ever have! None of the tools above is a perfect solution, only you can apply creativity and critical thinking to get the absolute best for your site. 

What's your Page Load Speed?

It's back to you- what's your first step to improve page load speed and your digital business? If you need some starters, here are a few key points to think about:

  • What’s the impact of page load speed on your brand? Are you losing customers from a slow site, or could you get more traffic and revenue from speed improvements?
  • Do you have a measurement framework in place for page speed? How do your page speed KPIs look? Think about Google Page Speed, First Byte, First Pain, DOM Load, and Full load times across your site, not just the home page. Category, product, shopping cart and customer service pages can all impact your business.
  • Have you stacked your site up against page speed benchmarks? If your site isn’t up to speed, do you know what’s causing slow load times and how to fix the issues?
  • What set of tools will you use to improve page load speed?

Take one step today: check your page load speed, research tools you could use, or learn more about KPIs you should use to measure success. If you’re finding details such as First Byte or DOM Load too far out in the technical weeds, ask us for help!