Improving a Slow Web Site in Order to Reduce Bounces
At Crescent Digital, in our strive for constant improvement, we sometimes stay awake at night worrying about how fast our clients websites are loading and is there anything else we can do to squeeze more performance out of them in order to generate more conversions.
Problem Explained: Whilst many people are familiar with metrics such as hits, ‘bounce rate’ is a hugely important metric of your website and potentially your business. Bounce rate is a measurement of how many visitors are rejecting your site. They land on your site and ‘bounce out’ without reading anything. A bounce rate of 50% means you’re losing half of your visitors without reading anything.
There’s a double penalty: Bounce rates show Google that your site is unloved and not what searches are looking for, which will ultimately mean your site losing visibility in Google.
Bounce rates can be influenced by a number of things and are a whole different subject we’d happily spend hours discussing, but the single biggest thing you can do today is to reduce the time it takes for your website’s pages to load.
Example: In my clients case – let’s call them “Zoom Microscopes” – the first thing that struck me was how slow their website was. After hooking up Google Analytics, a bounce rate of > 60% was observed (meaning 60% of visitors land on the site and ‘bounce out’ without reading anything). I suspected that many of these visitors didn’t even wait for the pages to load. Zoom Microscopes, like many companies, use cheap, shared web hosting from reassuringly well-known web hosting companies. This particular hosting company – one of the most well-known hosting companies – unfortunately hosts it’s UK sites in Amsterdam. (There is minor loss in performance from being located a little way from the UK, but in terms of SEO, a website hosted in Holland is sending confusing signals to the search engines, particularly if non-UK domains are used, such as .com.)
Compounding this problem was a WordPress powered website. WordPress is a great platform, but once loaded with plugins, hosted on cheap web hosting, its performance can seriously suffer.
Solution: We moved the website to a good quality UK based web hosting company. We then set about ‘tidying-up’ the WordPress installation and started working on ways to improve its performance. The end-result was quite staggering: we had reduced page load time from 9.5 seconds to 200ms – a reduction of 98%, as measured by Pingdom.