Today’s article is all around website load time and why it is something that you should be analysing for your Shopify store regularly. Whenever we look at a website for the first time, one of the initial checks that we look at is the site speed It is one of the most fundamental issues that websites can have which directly impacts the overall performance and amount of revenue that your store.
We briefly mentioned on Site Speed on our 10 Point Technical SEO Checklist, today’s article goes into this in more detail, outlining why site speed is important, why it’s also getting more important, what you should be your site speed benchmark, how to check your site speed & how to improve your Shopify stores site speed. So without further adieu, let’s get started.
Why Website Speed Is So Important?
Some of the side effects of having a slow website include, high bounce rate %, low avg. session duration, low pages / session and low repeat users. The end result of this is poor experience for a user who is far less likely to make a purchase, meaning less revenue and profit.
So, you can now see why site speed is so important for users who are already on your website. But how does it impact users who aren’t… Well, having a slow website actually makes it less likely for a user to find you than one of your competitors with a faster site. Why you might be asking? Well, Google likes websites that provide value for users in a way that they can enjoy. If your website is providing a frustrating user experience, then Google is less likely to show your listing in the first place.
This is multiplied when you are running Google Ads. You might have a great CTR%, but websites that are slow loaders will be negatively impacted with lower Quality Scores, charging you more for every click you’re currently getting. If you have a bounce rate of 85%, then for every 20 clicks you receive you only have 3 that actually start to scroll down their landing page.
Why Site Speed Is Getting More Important
Firstly, the level of competition in the online market is dramatically increasing each year in Australia. No longer can ecommerce website take their users for granted, there is simply too much competition out there that every day your website is lagging behind is a day that you’re giving competitors your valuable customers.
Secondly how we are interacting with websites has been changing over the last 5 years. The primary form of searching online has shifted from sitting at a computer, to being on the go and searching whenever and wherever we like on our mobiles. For most Shopify websites, the percentage of users coming from mobile phones is now above 55%. That means that the other devices, being Desktop, Tablet & Voice (i.e. through a Google home), makes up the remaining 45%.
This reliance on mobile phones has some great benefits but also some major side effects. First of all, when we are searching on mobiles we want information right then and there, we don’t want to scroll through pages of content, or impatiently waiting for websites to load. We’re in the middle of 100 other things, so we just want to know the answer to whatever it is we’re searching for. If we can’t get that information, we much more impatient and likely to bounce off to the next website.
The other major side effect is that when we are searching on desktop we are generally locked in to the home or office wifi, but when we’re on mobile we are prone to poor quality reception. This means that even if your website doesn’t normally load slowly, it can still be susceptible to a long load time.
What Should You Be Aiming For?
The great news is that generally most Shopify stores have been set-up in a way that means you can have a fast loading site. Australian websites are notoriously slow loading, for most Australian Shopify stores it takes on average between 7 & 10 seconds to load. The issue is, Google research shows that after 3 seconds, each additional second a website takes to load the probability of the user bouncing off increases dramatically.
So ideally, you should be aiming for an average load time below 3 seconds. It isn’t always achievable to get every page on your website to load faster than three seconds, but to get an overall average between 3-5 seconds is.
How To Check Your Website Speed
Different page layouts will have different average load times. Your home page & product pages should be the fastest loading, but collection pages will generally take a little longer due to loading all the images of the products.
The best way to check your website load time is to look through Google Analytics. Under the behaviour tab on the left, there is a secondary tab labelled site speed. There are 3 primary options each will give you slightly different information.
- Overview: This is where you will find the average load time for your entire shopify store. For the Avg. Page Load time, this is where you want to see that magical 3 second figure.
- Page Timings: This breaks down each page on your shopify store, showing how each page compares with the site average.
- Speed Suggestions: This tab also gives you a breakdown of how long each page takes on average to load. Instead of comparing to your site average however, it gives you a pagespeed score out of 100 & a link to Google Pagespeed Insights (which we will cover next)
When analysing these tabs, we recommend to look at data for at least the last 2 or 3 weeks so that you are seeing a representative average. Alternatively, if you have made changes to your website, compare the data before vs after and you can see what impact those changes have made.
The area to check your page speed is by using a Google tool called PageSpeed Insights. This tool will give you a score out of 100 like the speed suggestions page in Analytics, however it breaks down your website by mobile vs desktop. We’ve touched on how important mobile is to a store, so seeing this level of detail along with suggested improvements is a goldmine of information.
Start by testing the most frequently visited pages on your website as well as the most important pages. For example if you are running Google Shopping campaigns, then your product pages are extremely important.
Not running Google Shopping… Check out our latest article on how to setup a google shopping campaign from start to finish.
The great thing about PageSpeed Insights is that you can do a direct comparison to see how your website performs against your competitors. Why wouldn’t you want to get one up on them, and give a better user experience for your customers.
How to improve your website speed
There are three main components that you can control which will help with your Shopify Stores website speed.
If you are looking at starting your first Shopify store, or if you are thinking of upgrading your theme, then make sure that you are choosing a theme that is mobile responsive and fast loading. This investment of time choosing your theme is going to pay dividends in the long run, so spend a bit of time going through all the options. Make sure you understand what functionality you want from your store, write it down and find the theme that covers the majority of them. Once you are using your theme, there’s only a limited amount of improvement you can make, so unless you want to fork out some hard earned money on a new theme, choose wisely.
High Resolution Images
We regularly come across websites that look stunning, have a great product, detailed information and service but can’t get the sales they were looking for. We open up the site for the first time and wait… by this stage we already know what a key issue is. Using high resolution images on your website looks amazing, but sacrifices load time far too much. An easy solution is to use an online image compressor and re-upload all of the images, or alternatively there are some great Shopify Apps that do the work for you at a cost. Choose whichever works best for you, but please fix your images.
Once you have chosen your theme, and made sure that any images you are using or want to use are compressed, then the next area to look at is the page layout. Including every element you can on your homepage is a great way to slow down your site. The best performing website provide enough information on the homepage and then give the opportunity for users to find more information through other pages on the site. Keep your homepage simple, including a featured collection, links to other important collections, sale or promo banners, written information about the business and links to contact us, shipping & returns pages etc.
When & How Often To Review Site Speed
Site speed is something that is always going to be important to monitor. Checking is quite quick and easy to do, so our recommendation is to check your site speed every couple of weeks at a minimum. If you’re a website that makes lots of changes, then it’s worthwhile creating a checklist to follow and reviewing the speed more often.
We love hearing feedback or your thoughts on website speed.
Let us know in the comments below.