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The 3 Second Bounce: How Webpage Loading Speed Impacts SEO and Revenue

Last week we discussed the issue of speed and latency in tech. How everything is getting faster and faster and how tech companies race to reach zero-latency in their services.

Today we will focus on latency in webpage loading speeds, and more specifically, since this is an SEO blog, how it impacts SEO and bounce rates. And we will also show you how to check your webpage loading speed, with our SEO Audit Tool, within minutes.

Some of the data presented in this article will be a few years old. But the rule of thumb in this case, is everything is accelerating and getting less patient, so remember that when you consider that data.

So how does speed  effect your online business potential?

The Time Depth: Milliseconds Bounce Rates

In a reality where we are conditioned to get everything as instantly as possible, a slow loading webpage can mean potential customers giving up the wait. They may then go and check out your competitors, whose webpages might load 0.01 seconds faster. Yes, it has become that ridiculous.

In fact, if you read our previous weeks story, you would know that it was that ridiculous even 10 years ago. This was when Amazon discovered as little as 100ms of latency in their webpage loading speeds, impacted 1% of sales. Might not seem like much, but in a company that has already reached a 1 TRILLION dollars market cap, 1% can mean billions of dollars of lost revenue.

Let’s imagine time as a 4th dimensional ocean, just because it’s more fun that way.

100ms Latency

This is the known surface area. It is the smallest currently perceived time increment by the internet user, that impacts anything.

A study by Akamai conducted in 2017, showed that 100ms of delay in a webpage loading speed, can hurt conversion rates by 7%! Now that is a meaningful figure even for a small eCommerce business.

Bear in mind, as we become more and more connected, possibly directly to our minds via Neuralink, all these perceived depths will change and will have even more of an impact.

0.5 Latency

We can still swim in this depth. But here’s an interesting fact – Google discovered even back in 2006, that a mere 0.5 delay in their search results, resulted in a traffic revenue drop of 20%. You can imagine what this means by 2019 standards.

1 second Latency

We are going a bit deeper now in the 4th dimensional ocean and require a snorkel. At this level naturally even more conversions will be impacted, and the overall customer satisfactions of those that didn’t bounce yet, drops by about 16%.

2 second Latency

Next level, even deeper. Scuba gear is required. Akamai found that about half of all internet users expect a webpage to load within 2 seconds, and that a two second delay might impact bounce rates by as much as 103%.

3 seconds of Latency

A common 4D submarine will do in this depth. This level will have a very noticeable impact on your website’s full commercial potential, as 57% of visitors will leave your website altogether.

The patience of the average internet user is notoriously short. Expectations are for everything to load as instantly as possible. If expectations are met with what is perceived as exaggerated latency (in this case it’s as little as 3 seconds), 80% of those that bounced will not return because of the negative experience.

Not only that, but some of them might even go so far as to actively communicate the rage inducing negative experience to their friends, via their social networks of choice.

4 seconds and beyond

The 4D submarine features retro design and is quite cozy once you get used to the sudden flashbacks from different time periods.

This is a depth that requires a submarine like the one James Cameron used to reach the Mariana Trench. Might as well be an eternity in Millennial time perception. According to Akamai about 60% will leave at this point, never to return.

Fair enough, a 4 second loading time was annoying. Even 10 years ago, when you needed to wait a whole night for a movie to download, instead of getting it in a matter of seconds to minutes on Netflix.

SEO, Google ranks and AMP

Webpage loading speed is a very well know ranking factor as far as SEO goes.

Google has made it an official ranking influencer back in 2010. It was part of their plan to make websites with a positive user experience, rank favorably in search results. And as they discovered, speed was a major element of the overall user experience on a website.

Of course, fast loading websites also meant that their spiders could crawl those webpages much faster, thus costing less recourses for Google.

If you have a fast loading website it will be crawled more frequently, and if everything checks out on other SEO aspects, it will also rise in ranks quicker than a slower loading website.

And as of July 2018, slow loading mobile pages are effectively downgraded in mobile searches on Google. The official statement is that only those pages that severely impact user experience (take several seconds to load) will be impacted. But we all know how sensitive Google really is. As standards of speed evolve so are  their algorithms. It’s entirely possible even milliseconds of loading speed will eventually serve as a ranking influencer.

Google has openly sponsored the open source AMP project (Accelerated Mobile Pages). The AMP is aimed at allowing web content to render almost instantly on mobile. AMP is also supported by other huge players such as Bing, Pinterest, Twitter and many others.

Research on AMP shows highly favorable results – users spend on average twice as much time on AMP’ed websites, than on non-AMP ones. Also eCommerce sites experienced an overall increase of 20% in sales if they employed AMP on their pages. Furthermore, a recent Google poll showed majority of users (51%) will prefer to click a search result that has the AMP lighting icon next to it. There’s a very good reason major news outlets such as the NYTimes has made it their standard.

One interesting case study in the field of eCommerce is of the Indian retail giant Myntra. They increased their page loading time by 65% and reduced bounce rates by as much as 40% as a result. This was just a quick example, the case studies of the benefits of speeding up websites are plenty, you just need to do a quick search to read about them.

Finally connecting to the previous points – speed measurably effects bounce rates and CTR, and bounce rates and CTR measurably effect rankings. If people don’t stay on your site, and bounce almost immediately, this signals to Google that your site is of lower quality. As a result, this will not be favorable in any organic progress.

By the end of the day, even if you have a far superior content to your rivals in the niche, it won’t matter if the person that is supposed to read your content bounces. This is because their patience has been conditioned to be thinner by modern standards of technology.

How to check your webpage loading speed objectively

So, let’s get to the nitty-gritty.

There are two ways to go about it – use Google’s PageSpeed Insights, or do an overall checkup on the SEO health of your website with our Audit Tool. You will be able to discover your webpage loading speed among other important metrics that impact SEO.

The great thing about the overall Audit is that you can analyze the general technical SEO aspects of your entire website. Areas such as the tech and meta, site structure, technical content quality and specific webpage issues.

After the audit is complete you will get an overall score to see how well optimized your website is:

After doing some necessary tune ups, you can recrawl your pages and see if the score has improved (as well as specific aspects such as the actual speed). You can see the progress of the score in the historical chart.

And since speed matters, as we’ve learned, the Audit report will be ready within minutes to hours instead of days like common Audit tools on the market (the time it takes depends on the number of pages to crawl).

Track mobile Google ranking progress

So lets say you’ve optimized your websites with AMP or any other speed increasing method. Don’t forget to track that organic search engine progress!

The relevant progress that is. Since webpage loading speed impacts mobile search results the most, make sure you are tracking your website’s mobile ranks. And not just general mobile ranks, since Google populates its SERP differently depending on what mobile OS the user is searching from, and what device type (tablet or phone). Here are a few examples of ranking differences based on OS and device type:

Red is iPhone rank and blue is Android rank
Red is iPhone, blue is iPad

More about ranking differences based on mobile OS type:

What Google isn’t telling us about their current (and future) mobile ranking algorithm

With our daily progress charts, you will be able to see your desktop and mobile ranks (hopefully) rise on all mobile rank types over time!

While speed is very important as we just saw, let’s not forget that there are tens of other aspects to SEO. Such as creating captivating content, using high quality titles, correct technical structuring, and of course tracking the organic search engine progress.

We will discuss how to improve mobile loading speed in future articles and much more on our blog, so be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss out when the next article hits!

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  1. […] loading speed will cause a high bounce rate, which will directly affect your SEO rankings. If your site loads more than 3 seconds, 50% of users will […]

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