We all know how speed-obsessed the economy is in the digital era. Tiny fractions of a second can make a difference on the extent to which our company survives and thrives. There are numerous reasons that site speed is beneficial to your organization. The search engine optimization (SEO) impact deserves special consideration. To better understand the relationship between the internet and speed, we can turn to research from neuroscience and user behavior studies.
Why website speed matters to business – 7 reasons
It is easy for a company that is selling the speed of its system as leverage to talk about how critical speed is. There are a slew of reasons that speed matters to a business site. Here are a few ideas from public relations and advisory firm Stern Strategy Group – splitting their mention of social and SEO into two parts and further assessing those aspects below:
- Boosts your credibility – The website is often the first opportunity that you have to show your brand to potential customers. You can use it to present your company’s story and achievements; samples of your case studies and completed projects; and comments from customers on how they felt about working with you.
- Improves your brand awareness – You are able to make a bigger name for your firm on the internet and overall through a dynamic and powerful online presence. Your site helps to establish your authority (provided the performance of the site does not undermine that authority), in turn leading to higher trust.
- Ties you more closely into social media platforms – By having a high-performance site and integrating it with the top social media networks through links or buttons, you are able to expand brand recognition throughout the world of social as well.
- Demonstrates your knowledge and skills – The content on your site, when delivered rapidly, can communicate on topics that relate to the core expertise of your company, as well as letting people know about the latest industry news and developing trends that are of interest to your niche.
- Enhances convenience for your clients – Through a website, customers, employees, and partners are able to access what your organization provides 24/7, meaning that they can at least learn about you and contact you even if you are not open in the middle of the night. Anyone who wants to do business with you will be able to at least make the first step.
- Drive your business’s long-term objectives – The online world puts you in front of a larger group of people and in front of different groups than you might encounter physically. You are able to let people know about the services and products that you have to offer across the entire planet rather than being limited to the area that your brand already reaches geographically.
Building SEO with speed? Really?
On January 17, Google made a major announcement related to page speed: mobile page speed would become a ranking factor for mobile search in July 2018. Google is simply labeling this change the Speed Update. The search engine giant noted that speed would not change the vast majority of searches. The algorithm change was only intended to negatively impact websites that “deliver the slowest experience to users,” per the company’s release.
In the announcement, Google’s Doantam Phan and Zhiheng Wang advised that the same standard of measurement would be used for pages regardless of any technical aspects. The recommendation from Wang and Phan is to use the PageSpeed report tool and technologies such as Lighthouse to check site speed and increase speed as needed.
Unfortunately, this advice will likely prove frustrating to many smaller websites, as noted by Barry Schwartz in Search Engine Land. Schwartz pointed out that since PageSpeed Insights is getting all its data from the Chrome Browser, there is insufficient data for properly gauging sites that do not have much traffic. The speed segment of the report did not populate for those sites, said Schwartz.
Google noted back in 2010 that speed was a ranking factor; however, that earlier announcement was related to desktop sites rather than mobile ones.
Neuroscience: we are wired for high-speed processing
We can get a sense of how important small segments of time are by looking at how quickly our brains can process information. The human mind can actually process an initial impression of an image in less time, significantly less time, than it takes to blink your eye. Neuroscience researchers at MIT observed that the brain is capable of processing an image that it has seen for just 13 milliseconds. For comparison, it takes 100 to 400 milliseconds to blink the eye.
For the study, which appeared in Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, the neuroscientists had participants let them know when they saw a particular scene, each of which was described in brief and simple terms, such as “smiling couple” or “picnic.” The participants would look for the specific image as 6-12 images were presented to them, each of them for 13-80 milliseconds.
The lead researcher, MIT professor Mary Potter, noted that human ability to determine the scene that is depicted in an image so incredibly quickly is an indication that what our sight allows us to do is to identify concepts within our world.
“That’s what the brain is doing all day long,” noted Dr. Potter, “trying to understand what we’re looking at.”
This desire to grasp what we are seeing, to make sense of it, to make meaning of it, is important in all human behavior – and is certainly relevant to the high-speed environment of the internet, with this core human “programming” gravely impacting how people look at our websites.
Amount of time it takes someone to decide on our site
Since we can process what we see very quickly, we can also make decisions very quickly. Many people will leave a site in just a few seconds – leaving if your site does not populate. The average ecommerce user would leave in 4.2 to 4.5 seconds in 2016, according to one analysis, if your site failed to load.
Even if they stay long enough to see some of your site’s content, the average user will still not be moving through your site especially slowly. Instead, a study from the Nielsen Norman Group found that people will stay on your site, on average, for under 59 seconds. David Zheng calls the need to engage your audience in just under a minute “the 59 Second Rule.”
Perhaps it is helpful to think in terms of the larger chunk of 59 seconds than the 4 seconds; in nearly a minute on your site, a person has time to potentially load a few pages. Each of those loads will give an impression to the individual, as they are impacted by its performance.
Your high-performance infrastructure
Speed is key to success, particularly online but in the physical world as well. In our current climate, having technology behind your website that will accelerate it to meet your visitors’ expectations is pivotal. At Total Server Solutions, we engineer our cloud to be fast, reliable, and scalable – delivering the only cloud with true guaranteed performance. See our performance infrastructure.