Famous Last Words from European SMEs: "My website loads fast enough."

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The time it takes to load a website is a significant factor in gaining new customers or losing them to the competition.  

Almost 33% of searchers will abandon a site (Bounce) if the page load is longer than 7 seconds, thus limiting the number of potential conversions.  Furthermore, users will visit 8.9 pages when page load is 2 seconds versus 3.3 pages when page load is 8 seconds.

These two stats show slow load times actively shrink the opportunity to engage and capture potential customers.  

However, that's not all.  Starting in July 2018, Google announced that pages speed would be a ranking factor for mobile searches.  Speed now has a major impact on SEO and organic ranking. Adding in bounce rates and time on site as other ranking signals, and a slow load speed now has the potential to depress the number of potential customers even accessing your site.

So how are European SMEs performing?  The answer is: not so good. Figure 1 shows the average load speed on desktop and mobile across eight countries in Europe.  Except for Switzerland, load speeds are frankly too slow, especially on mobile. 

Google recommends a load time on 3G of approximately 5 seconds, so most of these SME sites fall considerably outside this range except for Switzerland.  While desktop sites speeds are acceptable, they could still be improved.

Ultimately, search engine bots are not going to waste their time trying to crawl a site that loads slower than AOL.com on dial-up service, which means fewer pages crawled and, most likely, a negative organic ranking.  

While we often focus on how Google and other search engines react to slow sites, it is also critical to understand what users perceive as acceptable.

According to a Kissmetrics study, 58% of users believe that a site should load as fast or faster on their phone, and 47% expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less.

Clearly, most of the sites in our study are failing to meet their potential customer’s expectations.

We also know that most SMEs do not have extremely complicated sites, so the slow load speeds are a bit of a surprise.  But some steps can be taken to improve their performance, including using GZip compression, optimising images, AMP pages, server performance and more.

Today, it's not enough for businesses to compare their speeds to their competitors because being the "best of the worst" will not cut it.  Slow speeds can be a real advantage for "Do-It-With-Me" agencies as they can use every trick to optimise site speed and give their customers an edge over their competition. 

This post is based on key findings from the 2018 SIINDA Landscape study which looked at almost 40,000,000 data points across eight countries and 400,000 SMEs to provide insight into the quality of their online presence. The data was processed and analysed by Silktide, a web intelligence company headquartered in the UK. Silktide makes software to help people understand and improve their online presence. (www.silktide.com) and SIINDA.com: The Digital Marketing & Local Search Association (www.siinda.com)



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