« Back to front page

Conversions and page speed, a natural pairing

Looking to boost your ecommerce sales? We explain the link between page speed and conversion rates, and offer 5 speed tips to help your site load faster.

Fast page load speeds are essential for providing a silky-smooth web user experience and facilitating ecommerce website conversions. In this article, we’ll unpack the connection between page speed and conversion rates, explain when and where fast load times are most vital and offer some tips on optimizing your ecommerce site for speed.

What is page speed?

Page speed (sometimes called load speed) is the time it takes for the elements of a webpage to become visible and usable to someone landing on that page.

These on-page elements include text, images, videos, form fields, and any other piece of content designed for user consumption or interaction.

Several factors can lead to slower page speeds, including large file sizes, code inefficiencies, and multiple plugins. We’ll cover some tactics for increasing load speeds later in the post.

The importance of page speed for conversions

Whether you’re looking to increase newsletter subscriptions, webinar sign-ups, or ecommerce transactions, improving your page load speeds is one of the surest ways to ramp up your conversion rates.

Here are some stats to illustrate the point:

  • A site that takes one second to load converts up to three times more than a site that takes five seconds to load (Portent, 2019)

  • On average, ecommerce conversion rates drop by 0.3% for every additional second it takes a page to load (Portent, 2019)

  • Just a 100-millisecond delay in mobile page load speed can cause a 7% drop in conversions (Akamai, 2017)

But what explains this link between page speed and conversions?

Better user experience

Page load speed is key to creating an optimal website user experience.

Faster speeds make it easier for website visitors to quickly find what they want and get on with the task at hand. Slower speeds, however, often leave users twiddling their thumbs in a state of page-load limbo.

First impressions are crucial, so if a user’s first encounter with your website is frustrating, your ability to persuade them to convert will be at an immediate disadvantage. In fact, according to a 2019 survey by Unbounce, around 45% of people are less likely to buy from an ecommerce site if it’s slower than expected.

What’s more, the longer you make users wait to complete the target action on a given page, the more time you’ll give them to reconsider their options and change their minds.

Conversely, super-fast load times create a more polished user experience. Users naturally start to associate your brand with quality and trustworthiness when your site respects their time and intuition. This, in turn, makes them more likely to do business with you. But if your site offers a clunky or confusing user experience, why would users expect your services or products to be any different?

Lower bounce rates

Faster load speeds also improve conversions due to their impact on bounce rates.

As web users, we’ve all had the experience of clicking onto a page, becoming frustrated with how long it’s taking to load, and soon deciding to leave (or ‘bounce’ from) the site in search of a more user-friendly alternative.

In fact, according to Google, if page speed jumps from one to three seconds, the bounce rate increases by 32%, and if it jumps from one to ten seconds, the bounce rate increases by 123%!

The point is that slower sites struggle to generate conversions because so many users leave before they ever have the chance to convert.

Higher search rankings

Load speed can also indirectly affect your conversion rates by impacting your page’s ability to rank well on Google.

Remember that Google’s overarching mission is to provide its users with the best results for their search queries, both in terms of high-quality content and positive user experience. This is why Google’s algorithm considers page experience (including page speed) when determining where to rank content in its search results. All else being equal, the better your page speed, the likelier it is you’ll rank well for relevant search terms.

So how does this impact conversions? Well, if your target audience never discovers your site due to poor search visibility, they’ll never convert on it either!

When is page speed particularly crucial?

Fast load speeds are critical when it comes to pages that directly impact your sales. Speed improvements on pages with high consumer intent – like your category, product, and checkout pages – can have an outsized effect on your bottom line.

For example, suppose you have a product page that sells a €100 item, receives 2,000 monthly visitors and takes four seconds to load on average. Following Portent’s 2019 study, improving the load speed to one second could increase the conversion rate from 0.67% to 3.05%. This would amount to a huge jump of €4,760 in potential earnings for that page.

And as if that wasn’t enough to convince you that your ecommerce site should be lightning-quick, here are some real-life examples to hammer the point home:

  • Dress retailer Revelry saw a 30% boost in conversions after improving load speed by 43%.

  • Ebay saw a 0.5% increase in “Add to Cart” conversions for every 100-millisecond improvement in load speed.

  • Vodafone saw a 8% lift in landing page sales after improving its speed score by 31%.

Of course, even if your site doesn’t have an ecommerce element to it, improving page speed will still elevate your conversion rates. You should ensure your homepage, landing pages, and service pages all load fast to keep your site conversion-friendly.

How to improve your page speed for better conversions

Now that we’re clear on the importance of page speed let’s consider what actions you can take to ensure your pages load as fast as possible.

Below, we’ve outlined some of the most high-impact tactics for reducing page speed. Don’t forget that you can find a complete list of techniques in our page speed optimisation guide.

Test your current page speed

The first step is to figure out how your pages are already performing. Fortunately, tons of free and paid tools are available to help you do this accurately.

One of the best free tools around is Google’s PageSpeed Insights, which lets you analyse how your page performs across multiple speed metrics. For example, the tool tells you whether your page passes the Core Web Vitals assessment, which consists of three key metrics for measuring page experience:

  • LCP (largest contentful paint): The time it takes the browser to render the largest piece of content on a page, like an image or video.

  • FID (first input delay): The time it takes the browser to respond to a user’s first interaction with a page, like tapping a button.

  • CLS (cumulative layout shift): The number of times the page layout moves around when a user views a page.

You can also test your pages against these metrics within Ryte’s Web Performance section. Our Web Vitals report tells you what percentage of your pages are “poor”, “needs improvement”, or “good” and provides the individual LCP, FID and CLS scores for different pages.

Figure 1: Check your Core Web Vitals with Ryte

Once you’ve identified which pages need improvement, you can begin to implement some changes.

Use a content delivery network (CDN)

Using a CDN improves load speeds by caching your content on a global server network. The CDN server closest to the end user will deliver your website content to their browser instead of the request being routed back to the hosting server (which could be on the other side of the planet). For this reason, CDNs are particularly useful for websites with a global audience.

Compress images

The smaller your image files are, the faster your pages will load. Image compression reduces the processing demands on the user’s browser without sacrificing image quality. You can compress images directly in the command line using a program like ImageMagick, manually with a tool like Photoshop, or using an online tool like Optimizilla. Check out our image compression guide for a more in-depth breakdown.

Make use of lazy loading

Lazy loading occurs when a web page first loads whatever content that sits above the fold and delays loading the rest of the content until it’s needed (like when a user scrolls down the page). This reduces load speeds because pages only have to load the content assets immediately visible to users.

Limit external scripts

Third-party scripts like tracking codes, commenting applications, and social widgets can increase your page load speed if the servers from which they’re retrieved are slow. Consider whether you really need to integrate these external scripts and get rid of any that you don’t. Ideally, you’ll also store the scripts on your server instead of retrieving them from outside sources.

Final thoughts

Optimising page speed is essential to delivering a positive web user experience and maximising conversions.

We’ve seen that faster page speeds create less friction for users, reduce bounce rates, and even help a page rank better on Google. Even the slightest improvements in page speed can dramatically impact conversions. Simply put, the quicker your pages load, the more satisfied users will be and the more willing they’ll be to convert.

It’s now time for you to reap the benefits of faster load speeds on your own website. Start by implementing some of the page performance tips we’ve covered in this post and elsewhere throughout the Ryte Magazine.

Optimize your website with Ryte

Published on Mar 4, 2022 by Padrig Jones