Why do some web pages load slower than others? It’s an important question, especially as digital-first marketing becomes predominant. Marketers may want to put multimedia content on a web page in order to keep contacts engaged, content that includes images, videos, external links, and more. The tradeoff is that the more assets/objects you have on a given page, the more time it generally takes to load that page.
Unfortunately, today’s web site visitor has the attention span of a hummingbird: make them wait longer than they expect, and they’ll fly away never to return.
Load time matters to visitors, a LOT
Sojourn Solutions's web developer Karolina Luszcz offers a great exploration of why web page load times matter so much to visitors. Perhaps more importantly, she also provides easy-to-deploy tips and tools for shortening web page load times.
Luszcz displayed some eye-opening data from Google Analytics on the all-important relationship between web page load time and visitor bounce rate, a metric measuring the rate of visitors who come to a page and leave after doing nothing. “As load time increases,” says Luszcz, “so does the visitor bounce rate.” For example, if the load time is between 1 and 3 seconds, the visitor bounce rate is 32%. But if the load time goes as high as 5 seconds, the bounce rate triples to 90%.
Figure 1: Google Analytics data comparison of web page load time and probability of bounce
For more context, a bounce rate in the range of 26% to 40% is considered excellent, while a rate between 41% to 55% is considered average. A bounce rate of 56% to 70% percent is higher than average, and would likely need to be addressed. Anything over 70% is disappointing and a real roadblock.
So more visitors bouncing is the clear result of slow load times for a landing page. Alas, visitors have attention spans that can literally turn off from one second to the next, so the difference in having a page load time of 2 seconds or 3 seconds (a one second difference) can have a significantly-negative impact on the bounce rate. Marketers “should be concerned about anything that decreases the amount of visitor interest in their landing pages because it means fewer clients,” says Luszcz, which will obviously have revenue impacts downstream.
3 tips for faster, less “bouncy” pages
Luszcz moved from a diagnosis of the problem – web site visitors have little patience for longer page load times – to offering three ways to improve your page load times and thus reduce your bounce rates:
1. Test your page on a markup validation service (MVS). You want to begin by understanding where you are now – what your page load times are and what objects on the page (images, video, external links, etc.) are contributing to the existing load time. “You can find plenty of markup validation services online,” she says. Luszcz used this one in her example. “Just paste your webpage URL into the MVS “address box” and click the “check” button."
"The service will show you what objects/assets on the page are taking up what amount of space,” says Luszcz, “and also show you how the web page can be improved in the HTML code.” You can then make the suggested page improvements on your own without needing in-depth HTML knowledge.
2. Compress images. “Picture sizes can have a large impact on a page’s load time,” says Luszcz. “This tool (TinyPNG) uses smart music compression technology to reduce the file size of your pictures by selectively decreasing the number of colors in the image.” The impact on actual picture quality is virtually invisible, but “it makes a very large difference in file size” and thus decreases page load times (and, yes, visitor bounce rates).
In the example Luszcz offered, she reduced the file size of pictures on a webpage by 92% using the TinyPNG compression tool. That said, she suggests that you “always make sure to check that the stakeholder is satisfied with the image quality on various devices” before you finalize the compression.
The end result: Faster page loads, fewer bounces
Luszcz displayed a web page “before” and “after” applying the 3 suggestions she listed above, using the open-source developer tool Lighthouse to conduct the comparative analysis and generate reports. “As a result of our space-saving actions on the page, we improved the overall page performance” from a score of 58 to 81. In addition, the page’s SEO score increased from 73 to 91. Perhaps more importantly, taking the 3 suggested actions reduced the load time speed by about 20%, which would also significantly reduce the visitor bounce rate for the page.
Figure 2: Lighthouse tool comparative analysis report
The tips and tools Luszcz offers are perhaps the most-easily plucked “low-hanging fruit” you can grab off the tree to quickly reduce both your web page load times and your visitor bounce rates. These changes can move more of your visitors from bouncing to actually engaging with the marketing content you’ve worked so hard to create and share.
If you need additional help in optimizing your web pages or any other aspects of your marketing operations, reach out to us for expert help.