If there’s one thing that ecommerce experts around the world can agree on, it’s that page speed matters. It influences how customers perceive your store and how likely they are to make a purchase, and how high a page ranks on search engines. With it set to become a key ranking factor for Google as of May 2021, the relationship between page speed and your store’s SEO is going to become even more important.
Today we’re going to look at the ways in which page speed influences your Shopify store, and some tips for how you can improve it.
Faster pages rank higher (Core Web Vitals)
Why is page speed important? The simplest answer is that the faster the page, the better the chance it has to rank on search engine results pages (SERPs). This has been the case for a while, but it’ll be even more pertinent with Core Web Vitals becoming a key ranking factor.
So what are Core Web Vitals? We’ve covered this in detail in a previous article, however let’s recap. Core Web Vitals are a set of factors that Google uses to determine a page’s SERP ranking. There are four factors that are existing ranking factors, and three factors that combined make up Core Web Vitals, those are:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) - This is the time taken for a page’s main content to load. Ideally this should be 2.5 seconds or faster.
First Input Delay (FID) - This is the time taken for the page to become interactive, this should be less than 100ms.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) - This is about the amount of unexpected shifting in a page’s visual content. This should score less than 0.1.
Based on these brief descriptions, you may be able to read between the lines and see that they relate to page speed. It’s all about the perceived user experience of a site. Google relies on keeping users happy - providing them the answers they’re looking for, and recommending them to sites that will give them a good experience. The more it does that, the more people will use Google. If you improve your page speed, Google will take notice and determine that you provide a better user experience and therefore that page is worth ranking higher. It could be the factor that puts you ahead of competitors who maybe haven’t put as much emphasis on page speed.
Improved customer experience = improved conversions and loyalty
First impressions count for a lot when it comes to perceived customer experience. You might have great content and amazing products, but if it takes too long to load a page then you could lose those potential customers. 70% of consumers have said that page speed does affect their likeliness to buy from an online retailer, and according to Google, 53% of users will leave a mobile page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load compared to 13% if the page takes less than 3 seconds. A one second of improvement in load time can also lead to an up to 27% increase in conversion rates. Taking things even further, an improvement of just 0.1 seconds can lead to improvement in conversions, bounce rates, and customer engagement. So the faster the site, the better the user experience and the more likely a customer is to stay on the page and then to actually make a purchase.
It isn’t just conversions that fare better with a faster page speed, but what happens post-purchase. It has been proven that it’s much easier to sell to existing customers than to new customers, and in order to foster a base of loyal customers you need to provide them an excellent experience. By considering page speed as a key component of the customer experience, it’s then clear the impact it has on customer loyalty. 79% of customers who run into any kind of performance issues on your website are less likely to buy from you again, with page speed being one of the most common issues. In other words, if you mitigate the issue of page load speeds in the user experience then you’re more likely to attract repeat customers.
How to improve your page speed
Step 1: Understand & Analyze
The first step in improving page speed is to understand and analyze your current situation. There are a variety of tools available that can help you gather the data you need to build a picture of your current page speeds such as Google PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse.
Step 2: Identify & Implement
Once you’ve got a better understanding of page speeds on your store, you’ll want to identify where you can make improvements and implement changes. Some changes will be pretty straight-forward such as optimizing images, removing large unnecessary page elements, and caching static HTML. More complex changes will take time, and potentially assistance from an expert.
Step 3: Monitor & Track
It won’t be enough to make the changes you need now, you’ll need to keep track of page speed metrics and data so that you can ensure the changes you’re implementing are making a positive impact on your store. Monitor metrics and analyze any changes - this will help you to determine if you need further improvements.
The better the experience you offer your customers, the better your store will be able to rank in SERPs. A large part of that experience for Google is your page speeds. Understanding how page speed affects the customer experience and how this relates to your page ranking is the key to making improvements that can boost your ranking, bringing in more customers and giving them an experience that will keep them coming back for more.