Search engines love speedy sites, as do visitors. Site speed is one of the key factors that determine whether you get a decent placement in Google search results. On top of that, it’s also crucial for user-friendliness and getting a good conversion rate.
Slow WordPress sites are quite common now
But, WordPress business websites are not inherently fast. They’re typically 50-70% slower than most others. Yes, Google ‘prefers’ WordPress over other sites due to the clean url structure and frequent content updates. But a slow site can undo all this and result in a below average ranking. And the speed problem is NOT due to WordPress itself. It’s what inexperienced designers add to WordPress that cause all the issues. It’s not the tools, but how we use them…
The goal should be a complete page load in under 5 seconds with something appearing in under 2-3 seconds. And every second counts. An Aberdeen Group study showed an extra 1-second page load delay caused a 7% decrease in conversion rates and 11% fewer page views. Also, it had 25% of visitors abandoning business websites after waiting just 4 seconds to load. For eCommerce sites, expectations are higher with 40% abandonment after just 3 seconds with little showing.
A typical industry example and case study we use to illustrate what can go wrong with WordPress sites is the agency-designed site www.palmers.co.nz.
It is nice looking with new promotions each month. But this Palmers site has a massive 15 seconds initial load time – twice this for mobile viewers. This slow speed is likely killing their traffic, Google ranking as well as annoying visitors. (Ref mobile speed test results). Oddly, they don’t seem to care. This site is just a pretty branding exercise, not for selling.
Results from a recent repair job
Let’s look at the results for a small business WooCommerce site hungbythread Based upon a popular 4.5 star US$59 themeforest theme, the complaint was a very slow site, various site errors, resulting in very little traffic or sales the previous 12 months.
The original web designer had no answers. Designers design, they don’t know how things work. It did look amazing, but performance terrible. Our testing showed an unacceptable 26 second initial load time, enough to scare off visitors and Google. We see this problem a lot from those using pre-built themes. Yet in our case, after just a days work, we reduced the load time for this theme and site down to under 4 seconds and put in place systems to keep it fast. Before/after test report links below…
We obtained similar dramatic improvements on a large, extremely complex website Whatnow TV. Was up to 20 seconds loadtime and regular crashing, now almost instant loading and stable.
Slow Website or WebHost?
In around a half of our site tune ups, we discover that the host is also a significant factor, aside from the site optimisation issues. Cheap shared hosts (like openhost; crazydomains), even some ‘cloud’ varieties are not only slow, but leave your site more open to being hacked. If your site is slow, then Google is slow to index it and then gives you a lower ranking. Even speciality WordPress hosts like WPEngine have limitations when used here in NZ. Amazon’s popular EC2 scalable cloud host service, discussed in the video below, is another poor choice here if highest speed, Google ranking and sales is the goal.
The above is a 2 min extract from the developer conference. The full 15 min talk is here.
Yet a fast site is essential for visitor engagement, higher traffic and sales conversions. Yet too few WordPress sites owners review their site performance as a client would. Like Palmers, their focus is how pretty it looks and if it has the right message or branding. Sometimes I’m told there’s no money left in their budget for a days tuning work or a faster host to accelerate their site. All their money has gone into the visual design! The end result is a very pretty, but incredibly slow, unreliable website that is easily hacked.
Imagine if you purchased a paper or magazine and it took you 10-40 seconds to open the first page? You’d likely demand your money back from the designer and publisher. It’s a strange world we live in…
p.s. Will AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) save us?
A slow site is most obvious on mobile devices when you’re away from a Wifi or 4G connection. The current buzz is on AMP technology. Although still in development, there is promise. But AMP may compromise some features we expect, like the ability to place ads, add some analytics, special effects or functions etc. WordPress SEO guru Yoast wrote a good article on it last year explaining the benefits and issues.
However the good news is that you don’t necessarily need to employ AMP coding practices to have a fast mobile experience today. AMP is not a magical, cure-all technology. A fast site for mobile or desktop still comes from good clean coding, optimised content and most importantly, a fast host…
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