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How To Guide: How to Fix Slow Page Load Times via Searchbug.com
Oct
08

How to Fix Slow Page Load Times

Slow page load times are a bigger problem than many people realize.

Run a quick website speed test on your homepage. How’s it look?

Four seconds? Maybe five?

That might seem reasonable. But people hate waiting.

So it makes sense that longer page load times hurt your sales numbers.

Here’s why:

47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.

40% of people abandon a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

While a 4 second load time might not seem so bad, you could be missing sales because of it.

And it’s not just customers who give up on your site if it’s loading slowly.

Google and Facebook also dislike slow loading websites.

Here’s what’s going on: Facebook now displays links to slower loading websites lower on people’s news feeds.

Your website load time is also one of Google’s SEO considerations. Slower loading websites get pushed to the bottom of the search results page.

Unless your website is featured in the knowledge graph or you’ve got paid placement on Google, your site isn’t getting as much visibility as it could.

Accounting for all of these factors, a one second delay in page load time reduces conversions by as much as 7%. To put it in perspective, that would be 1.6 billion in sales for Amazon.

All in all, a slow loading webpage can cost you quite a bit of money.

So improving your website performance is a no-brainer. Here’s how to optimize your website for fast page load times:

How fast should my website be?

That’s a tricky question, since every website has a different set of necessary functions.

Additionally, each website has a different expected workload.

A WordPress site has different issues to contend with than a Shopify or Magento site.

Some sites can accomplish their mission without any exciting visuals, like a Google AMP page. At the other end of this spectrum are websites that need some visuals to get their message across.

Imagine the GoPro website without any visuals. Very disappointing.

So don’t strip down your website to the point that it’s too minimal to sell in the name of getting faster load times. People also leave websites because they aren’t adequate.

The goal here is two fold:

  • Build a website that gives users everything they need.
  • Get it to load in under 4 seconds.

This article is about website load times, so we’ll assume that your does everything people need it to.

These are the biggest offenders when it comes to website load times and how to fix each one:

Unoptimized Images

Images are hands down the biggest cause of slow page load times.

The first thing to do is only use images where you need to. Many websites use images to display text. This might save time in website development, but in terms of website efficiency, it could lead to high website abandonment rates.

Only use text to display text.

As far as images themselves, issues with images fall into two main categories:

 

  • Image size.
  • Image type.

 

Dealing with these problems isn’t too difficult. Just do two things.

Optimize your images.

There’s a lot of metadata hidden in your image files. The metadata is useful for developers, but it really slows down your website.

Fortunately, this is relatively easy to solve: Losslessly optimize your images, and use images of the appropriate size for your website.

Losslessly optimizing your images strips away any metadata that doesn’t improve the visual quality of the image.

This is mostly a matter of running them through optimization software. It’s pretty simple.

These two pieces of software will help you optimize the most common image types:

Look at how much smaller an optimized image is:

Optimized Image: 2MB to 497KB for faster page load times

Image Source

 

With the right tools, you can very quickly optimize the images from your website and replace the unoptimized images with their more space-efficient counterparts.

Use the Right Images for the Right Purpose

The second issue involves a bit more work. However, it’s just as simple.

Certain image types are better for different things. On websites, most images are either PNG files or JPEG files. Using the wrong image type for the wrong purpose will make your website much slower.

Here’s what each file type is best for:

PNG files: these are best for logos and icons.

The PNG format supports transparency. It’s a good format for a visual that you need to overlay on top of other elements. However, PNG files get data heavy very easily, so they’re not ideal for large images or photos.

JPEG files: these are best for photos and large images.

JPEG files don’t support transparency. They’re not ideal for layering. However, JPEG files are more data efficient than PNG files. Using JPEG images whenever you don’t need a PNG will save you a lot of data.

So, unless you want to keep trying to sell stuff with a sad panda, use the right image for the job.

Bad Code Slows Down Your Website

If you’re like me, you’re very bad at coding. If you’re not like me, you may be able to fix this yourself.

There are certain best practices in coding that are designed specifically to make the code do its job faster. Make sure that your web page code follows these best practices.

Here’s what your website needs to load as fast as possible:

  • Clean code. Your entire website is built from code. More complex websites need more code.

Facebook has 60 million lines of code. You probably don’t need that much.

A good web developer will use the least amount of code possible, while still creating a website that does what you need.

  • Minimal inline CSS. Using inline CSS makes your HTML less efficient. Many coders consider inline CSS to be lazy coding.
  • Build a CSS stylesheet. However, don’t build more stylesheets than you need. Most websites function well with a single CSS stylesheet.
  • Page caching. Without page caching, each time a user visits your site, the code is retrieved from the server. The website gets built from the ground up for each visitor.

With page caching, the server simply sends a pre-constructed snapshot of your page to each visitor, which can dramatically reduce load times. However, page caching cannot be used with websites that require authentication.

  • HTTP Compression. The less data you need to send for your website to load, the better. So, find out what’s compressible (like images). Then compress all that data into the smallest block possible.

Plugins Hurt Your Load Times

Plugins are rad. They’re great for adding dynamic content to your website. Some websites—like WordPress sites—rely on plugins more than others.

Unfortunately, plugins present a few challenges for page load times. Each plugin contributes a little bit more load time.

Check for these issues with your plugins:

  • Plugin bloat. The biggest issue is too many plugins. The obvious first step is to remove any plugins that you’re not using. Second, drop any plugins that aren’t netting you a meaningful return.
  • JavaScript issues. Most plugins are built with JavaScript, which is a great tool for adding cool content to your website. However, inefficient JavaScript will crush your load times. Multiple API calls to render JavaScript data causes significant loading delays.
  • Flash content. Flash content makes your website more interactive. It also makes your website load very slowly. Flash content is bulky, and not data efficient. The best way to resolve this issue is to replace Flash content with HTML5 content.

Without Domain Sharding, It’s Hard For Browsers to Download Your Page

Most browsers can support concurrent downloading from 2 to 4 different sources. Hosting your website on a single domain is like driving on a four lane highway, but only using a single lane.

Domain sharding is simply storing different pieces of your website on different servers. This way, when a user’s computer requests your website, it will download faster using the concurrent downloading capability of their browser.

Splitting up your website so that the different pieces can be simultaneously retrieved from different servers is an administrative hassle. To help with this, you can utilize DNS CNAME records to trick computers into thinking that your website is hosted on multiple domains, and use all four lanes on the freeway.

Having Too Many Ads Kills Load Times

Ads are an excellent way to monetize your website traffic. However, there are two good reasons to scrutinize which ads you include on your website.

First: if your page is overrun with ads, it can really hurt the user experience.

Isn’t it frustrating when you click on something in Facebook, only to find that you can’t see any of the content because there are ads in the way? A frustrating user experience drives customers away, regardless of how fast your website loads.

So make sure that your ads are well placed, and don’t get in the way of what the user wants to do.

Second: too many ads makes your website load slower.

The biggest takeaway here is that if ads aren’t your main revenue stream, you can probably do with less. Look at your lowest performing ads. Consider whether or not they’re worth the extra time it takes your website to load. That slowdown could cost you some sales.

Then, make sure that the ads you do include follow the rules of website optimization so they don’t increase your load times.

What to do if you can’t fix all this yourself:

Improving website load times is kind of a technical process. Unless you’ve got a lot of web development savvy, it’s best to have your website audited for performance issues.

There are a number of tools and services for identifying problems with your website, like this website performance scan. You might not be able to fix the issues yourself. But you’ll know where the biggest problems are, which will make it easier for a professional developer to fix them.

Remember, your website doesn’t need to be face meltingly fast. Load times of less than 4 seconds will do. But faster is better.

How’s your website doing? Leave a comment and let us know how fast your web page loads!

 

The Most Important Key Performance Indicators via Searchbug.com
Sep
24

The Most Important Metrics and Key Performance Indicators for Ecommerce

If you’ve dug into measuring your business at all, you know that there are a ton of metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). There are actually too many for anyone to track and make use of all at once. Certain metrics are more valuable for some businesses than for others.

The metrics that are most relevant to your business are largely determined by how your business sells things.

There’s a certain cluster of metrics that are best for retail businesses. There’s a different core of metrics that work best for ecommerce companies. Omnichannel businesses need to work with still a different set of metrics.

Sure, there’s overlap in the metrics that work for each type of business.

But we’ll focus on ecommerce here.

The thing that determines which metrics are valuable for ecommerce is the way that ecommerce is structured.

Ecommerce can actually be broken down into two very broad stages:

  1. Product development.
  2. Marketing.

Since ecommerce platforms are designed to simplify the fulfillment process, ecommerce business can focus mostly on building a product that solves a problem, then putting that product in front of people when they need it or want it.

Now, there are subsets of each of these stages, but these are the big picture.

With the rise of dropshipping and ecommerce platforms designed to simplify the ecommerce business model, KPIs related to supply chain and logistics are less important for many ecommerce businesses.

The majority of ecommerce KPIs are related to marketing. Once you’ve created your product and established your logistical relationships, it’s all about effective, efficient marketing.

One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make with metrics is being too focused on KPIs themselves. KPIs aren’t all that useful without context. They’re the best indicators of how well you’re accomplishing your business goals.

So the focus should actually be on the objectives. Your goals determine which metrics you focus on. Avoid falling into the trap of letting your metrics steer your goals. This is the way to madness.

Before you can build your suite of metrics, you need to establish objectives.

There are a lot of ways to establish goals. Many of them work just fine. Here’s one that works for many companies and people:

S.M.A.R.T.

You may have heard it before. This is what a S.M.A.R.T. goal is:

Specific.

Measurable.

Achievable.

Relevant.

Time bound.

A S.M.A.R.T. goal looks like this:

Our goal is to add 100 new, active subscribers by the end of the year.

If you use these criteria for identifying your objectives, you’ll be able to easily choose the best metrics for measuring whether or not you’re achieving your goals. The objective itself will tell you what you need to measure.

So, how exactly do you use your metrics once you’ve deduced which ones are best for you?

How to Use Your Metrics

In a word: methodically.

There are so many metrics that it’s easy to let your attention fragment and get lost in a rabbit hole of the hundreds or thousands of things you can tweak and optimize.

The key to using your metrics effectively is focus.

Even if every single metric looks terrible, avoid trying to tackle everything at once. Choose one thing, identify the metrics associated with that aspect of your business, and make adjustments until the metrics are satisfactory.

Then move onto the next aspect. Once you’ve evaluated and optimized all the pieces, go back and check on the one you started with and see if you can make it even better.

The best way to optimize things in your business is with A/B testing. Some call it split testing.

Here’s how you do it:

Build two versions of whatever your trying to improve. For example, an email subject line.

Send both subject lines to the same number of subscribers.

Keep the version that gets more email opens.

Then design a new version and test it against the old winner.

You can do this endlessly. It’s a perpetual cycle of optimization.

You can run A/B tests on just about anything. You can optimize your entire sales funnel using A/B testing.

But, don’t get carried away. You’ll lose your mind if you try to run A/B tests on everything at once. Choose one or two things, test them, optimize them, then move on to the next thing or two.

It’s like using the scientific method to improve your business.

With that in mind, these are the most valuable metrics for ecommerce businesses to understand and track:

Customer Lifetime Value

Customer lifetime value is how much revenue each customer brings your business over the course of their relationship with your company.

Revenue and quarterly profits are cool, but customer lifetime value is pretty much king of the ecommerce metrics.

Reason being: if you know your customer lifetime value, you can precisely calculate your marketing budget. This is huge, since your marketing budget could account for half of your expenses, maybe more.

But there’s a tricky thing with customer lifetime value: having the data to calculate it. If you’re just starting out, you might not have a lot of numbers to crunch.

If this is the case, you’ll have to make a few projections based on your profit margins and how many sales you anticipate once you launch. It’s best to be conservative when you make these predictions. It’s safest err on the side of caution right?

This is the first metric you should calculate. It’s useful for evaluating progress toward a whole slough of objectives. Your customer lifetime value helps you evaluate customer loyalty, repeat purchase rate, and a whole bunch of other metrics that give you a picture of how your customers are interacting with your brand.

Customer Acquisition Cost

Customer acquisition cost is how much it costs to get a prospect to make their first purchase from your business. It’s a measure of how your total marketing spend divides up among your first time buyers.

Since marketing is half of the ecommerce marketing equation, determining how much you’re paying to acquire each new customer will help you make strategic decisions and plan out how much it will cost to hit growth goals.

Comparing your customer acquisition cost to your customer lifetime value essentially tells you whether or not you’re going to make money in the long term.

Conversion Rate

Conversion rate measures the percentage of the people who visit your page actually make a purchase.

This key performance indicator measures how well your marketing is working as a whole. One good way to use the conversion rate metric is to start from the conversion (the sale), and work backwards through your sales funnel.

Once you’ve got the conversion part dialed, you can endlessly tweak your marketing to get the most people to that final stage.

Here’s how this part works:

If you have consistent conversion rates, all you really have to do is get more people to the conversion page.

To do this, you need to have a large pool of people that you can ask to come see your site. These are the best tools for this:

  1. Data collection.
  2. Data management.

Essentially, you need to get contact information and you need to know that the contact information is correct. Content marketing, lead magnets, trip wires, these are all great tools for gathering prospect data.

On the other end, validating your data makes your data collection efforts effective. If you have bad data, you’re going to expend a lot of effort reaching out to inert contacts.

So validating your data on the front end, when prospects enter it into a form, and consistently cleansing your data is like removing unproductive keywords from your Google ads.

There are a lot more metrics. Over 65, according to some ecommerce experts. However, the other metrics are designed for evaluating very specific parts of your business.

There are metrics for improving your emails, metrics for improving your website, metrics for improving your checkout process. The measurement is getting more granular every day.

Using all these metrics is more engineering than art. Here’s a quick roundup of how to use some of these other metrics:

  • For email marketing, start with your conversion rate and work backwards. Adjust the body of your emails and calls to action until your conversion rates are decent. Then move back to adjusting your subject lines to increase open rates.
  • For website optimization, look at conversions first. Tailor your product pages and checkout flow to optimize conversion rates. Then work on your content marketing and paid advertising to increase the traffic to your site.
  • For social media, evaluate your conversion rate. Iterate your ads and calls to action until you’ve got acceptable conversion rates. Then start expanding your audiences and advertising channels to get more impressions.

Using the smaller metrics to fine tune things is smart.

However, the big three metrics give ecommerce businesses a good overall view of their business and can be used to evaluate how well they’re meeting most ecommerce goals.

As you work through each detail of your business and make changes to improve the individual aspects, keep an eye on how it’s affecting your customer lifetime value, customer acquisition cost, and conversion rates.

In theory, if you’re improving the individual parts of your business, your central KPIs will get better.

So pull up these key metrics, and hit us up on LinkedIn or Facebook to let us know how your business is doing!

Apr
09

How Do Use Your Customer’s Phone Numbers?

Mike owns a company that sell widgets over the telephone to consumers and small businesses.

Mike’s company acquires phone numbers from public records and other marketing sources. Mike checks the numbers to make sure they are not on the do not call list. Unfortunately, he doesn’t check to see if any numbers are cell phones.

Read more

Job Opening
Feb
18

How Can You Tell if You’re about to Hire a Turkey?

You're about to Hire a Turkey

More of us have experience interviewing for a job opening in the hopes of landing the job, but imagine what it’s like to sit on the other side of the table. Imagine you’re in charge of your company’s well-being. It’s up to you to hire the right person for the available job. If the new hire ends up being a “turkey” it will be on your shoulders. The last thing you want for your company is to end up spending hours training a fiasco of sorts. That’s a flub you don’t want on your record.

Instead, as an employer you want to hire someone who is competent. You want someone who can take your company to the next level. Someone who takes the hours of training that you’re going to give them and turn it into a valuable wealth of knowledge. To pick out the best new hire for your company there are some helpful steps you can take.

Read more