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Ever since Google’s Mobilegeddon, page load time has been a hot topic for website improvement, not simply because of the increased demand from mobile visitors but because of potential lead and customer losses. While page speed influences your search ranking and Facebook pushes Instant Articles, it’s obvious that websites need to pick up the pace, but how fast is fast enough?

What amount of page loading time will consumers accept and what will make them close the tab and find something else?

Page Load time Is a Primary Ranking Factor

Your website needs to be fast enough for your visitors. While that may not be the answer you’re looking for, it’s the one that your website visitors will appreciate. By monitoring your bounce rate (in Google Analytics or comparable metric trackers) and page load time (using the Chrome extension “Page Load Time” or more extensive trackers) you can continue to enhance your website and better serve your visitors.

Why Page Loading Time Is Important for SEO

While you know the obvious answer, it doesn’t provide you a goal to work towards. Before I get into the speeds you should be aiming for (and not) there’s something you should know: the numbers on page speed suck. Often, the same stats are posted time and time again and are dated while technology is anything but dated, it’s continually improving.

The standards many have been using for page load time come from a study conducted by Geoff Kenyon where he compares website speed against the rest of the web:

  • if your site loads in 5 seconds, it is faster than approximately 25% of the web

  • if your site loads in 2.9 seconds, it is faster than approximately 50% of the web

  • if your site loads in 1.7 seconds, it is faster than approximately 75% of the web

  • if your site loads in 0.8 seconds, it is faster than approximately 94% of the web

Pingdom has also shared their findings from 2015 (using their own clients as the data source), where the average load time for web pages 3Mb was 5 seconds. While Google from 2010 would contend to say that is not nearly fast enough.

In a Google Webmaster video, Maile Ohye, states that “2 seconds is the threshold for ecommerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half-second.” Half a second is fast, to put it in layman terms it’s close to blinking, while two seconds is shorter than one breath–and that PageSpeed time is what they thought websites 6 years ago should be aiming for.

The most interesting and recent study I came across was from the Financial Times Technology Department. They looked at how page speed affected their developing publishing site. The study they performed involved their specific goals for a publishing site and had a test group and control, the test group would have a 5-second delay added to each page load time. The notable facts they found were :

  • The first-second delay resulted in a 4.9% drop in the number of articles a visitor read

  • The three-second delay resulted in a 7.9% drop

  • Visitors read less when delays occurred

I highly recommend reading the whole article, it brings up a point that we already know: visitors do less on sites when page load times delay their interactions with the website, making it less desirable.

What Your Page Speed Should Be

Summing it all up your website page speed needs to be as fast as you can make it… without compromising the customer experience. For Google, they aim for the speed of a blink, your website may look for something more like a breath.

When it comes to page speed, there are many factors to your success: the browser, device, web hosting provider, and content on the page, which is why you need to focus on your visitor’s needs.

For example, if you strip down your site to improve mobile speeds but 90% of visitors come from desktop, you’re not serving your main visitors, but 10% of mobile ones. What aspect of your website did you take away that may have an influence on how your desktop visitors interact with it?

TLDR Answer: Serve your customers with the page load time they need, a good goal being 1-2 seconds.

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