Why Site Speed Is So Important: Conversions, Loyalty, and Google Search Ranking

These days, most guides to success in digital marketing for ecommerce businesses focus on factors like paid marketing, content, social media, and design. Yet another important factor that's often overlooked or taken for granted is website performance—or, more specifically, website speed.

Site speed is key to ecommerce success. It directly influences your conversion rates, repeat business, and search engine rankings. And with recent changes to Google Search ranking, a fast load speed for your website is even more important as a competitive edge.

Let’s take a look at why site speed is so important, how site speed will become a vital part of Google Search rankings, and how you can improve your site speed.

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Why is site speed important?

Your website’s speed matters for a variety of reasons. In general, you won’t be surprised to hear that a slow website takes away from the overall user experience of browsing your online store. Yet there are several more specific benefits to increasing your site’s speed.

Conversion 

In an era of instant gratification, site speed is a top priority for online shoppers. In fact, fast websites and pages have been linked to lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates.

According to Google, a one-second website speed improvement can increase conversions for mobile users by up to 27%. And with 70% of shoppers buying on mobile devices, site speed clearly has a huge impact on your revenue potential.

A one-second site speed improvement can increase mobile conversions by up to 27%.

By keeping your page load time low, you’ll reduce the chances of a customer leaving without buying, and increase your opportunities to make sales.

Loyalty (repeat business)

While a customer’s negative first impression of your slow website is a problem, long-term exposure to slow pages may be even worse.

This probably sounds familiar: “It’s cheaper to get current customers to make a repeat purchase than it is to find new customers.” Site speed plays a big role in this. In fact, Skilled found that 79% of customers are less likely to repurchase from an online store if they were “dissatisfied” with the site's speed (i.e., you’re more likely to get repeat customers if you have a fast site).

To keep your customer acquisition costs low in the future, invest in reducing load times and increasing page speed across your website now.

Google Search ranking 

Apart from improving user experience, site speed is also an important ranking factor in the larger arena of search engine optimization.

Ranking higher on search engines like Google helps your business get discovered by more potential customers. Google—the most popular search engine, owning 92.47% of the world's market share, as of January 2021—uses site speed as a ranking factor for search results. As of May 2021, faster sites now rank even higher on Google, making them easier for new customers to discover.

Site speed updates to Google Search ranking

Google Search’s mission is to help users find the most relevant and quality sites on the web. It does this with a ranking system, designed to sort through the billions of webpages and connect users with what they’re looking for

As of May 2021, faster sites rank higher on Google Search.

Beginning May 2021, Google added Core Web Vital signals to its search ranking algorithm, combining them with existing search signals to measure how users perceive a webpage. Put simply, these signals measure how fast users think your site is.

Graphic of Google Search's core web vitals

Core Web Vitals are user-centric metrics that help users perceive a webpage as fast:

  1. Loading is measured with Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). This metric lets users know when a site is useful by measuring how long it takes for a page’s main content to load. 
  2. Interactivity is measured with First Input Delay (FID). This metric lets users know when a site is usable by measuring the time from when a user first interacts with a page, like clicking hyperlinked text or a button, to the time when the browser is actually able to respond to that interaction. 
  3. Visual stability is measured with Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). This metric ensures users have the best experience possible by measuring how often users experience an unexpected layout shift. 

So what does all this mean for your business? Improving your site speed will help you rank higher on Google Search and get discovered by more potential customers as a result.

How to improve your site speed

Thanks to our fast global network and website architecture, online stores built on Shopify are already fast by default. However, every time you add new features to your online store—like videos, rich media, live chats, or customer reviews, for example—it can slow your site speed, lowering your Google Search ranking

If you haven’t done a site speed audit in a few years, we recommend performing one in light of the 2021 update to Google Search ranking signals.

Because your Google Search ranking is key to acquiring new customers, we recommend performing a site speed audit in light of the Google Search “Page Experience” update in 2021. 

You can improve your site speed by following these steps: 

  1. Understand your current site speed. Before you can dive into improvements, it’s important to take a step back and get a full picture of your site’s performance. Visit the online store speed report in your admin to check your site speed and compare it to similar businesses. 
  2. Make site speed improvements. Identify where you can make changes to your online store to improve site speed by following these instructions or these 11 tips to boost your site speed. You can also reach out to a Shopify expert to perform a site speed audit and suggest how you can improve.
  3. Optimize images. Some site speed issues involve technical, under-the-hood improvements. But one of the most important places to look when addressing slow site speed is the images across your website. From compressing product photos to choosing the right file formats for your website’s design elements, image optimization efforts can make an enormous difference in load times.
  4. Repeat! Site speed should always be top of mind when making any changes to your online store. Keep tabs on your speed score and make improvements whenever necessary so you’re always optimized for conversion, loyalty, and Google Search rankings.

Why is site speed important FAQ

What causes slow site speed?

Slow website performance is caused by a variety of factors, including poor image optimization, unsupported fonts, inefficient CSS, hosting issues, and problems with third-party apps or plug-ins.

What is page speed?

Page speed is the time it takes for individual pages on your website to fully load for a visitor. If you’re lucky, your page load time may only be slow on one or a handful of pages on your site, due to oversized images, extra plug-ins, or other loading speed factors.

Does site speed affect your SEO performance?

Site speed affects your SEO performance directly through Google’s assessment of your site’s overall user experience via Core Web Vitals signals. Slow loading speed can also affect SEO indirectly by increasing bounce rate and decreasing time users spend on your site.

How do I test my website speed?

Shopify’s store speed report tool powered by Google Lighthouse allows Shopify ecommerce store owners to measure the speed of their websites. Alternatively, you can run your own Google Lighthouse report using Google PageSpeed Insights.
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