Speed Matters: Digital Marketing Tips for Site Speed
by Steven Laureys
People hate waiting. When you are trying to get to information, there is nothing worse than having to watch the loading cycle. In general, people will watch it...for a while, then the impatience sets in. Some customers will ride it out for minutes, but most only a few seconds. That is why there is such a high correlation of site speed to bounce rate. When you are paying to get the customer to visit your website, higher bounce rate often means wasted spend.
To find out where your site is, you need to measure it. Your page should load fresh (first time visit) in less than 3 seconds. The most important of the pages is your home page, and there are two methods for measuring it. First is through Google, they offer a tool that makes it easy. Just go to this site and enter in your website URL. In the results, red is bad and green is good. The results produce a lot of technical details and if this is not your area of understanding, talk to your site provider. I will provide some tips to assist below as well.
The second method is just common sense. You should manually check it on your desktop and mobile devices. Make sure you have cleared your cookies (cache) and then go to the site. Measuring it in real-time gives you insight based on true, human observation and helps you get past the technical to see it from your customer's eyes. If you get bored waiting for it to load, then you know your customer is feeling the same.
Remember to check this on mobile and desktop separately!
Okay, so you found out you are like most of the automotive websites out there and you have a problem with speed. What do you do no?
- Banners: If you are not creating the website banners yourself, or you do not know if they are correct for the site, then do a little homework. Talk to your website provider and they will tell you the optimal size. Compare this to what you have on the site. Some graphic designers use a standard size when they are putting together the creative. Then, when the manufacturer pushes one down to your site you start to get a mismatch. So, if you see that the banners are not uniform, you know that is a problem you are facing.
In addition, some of these banners are just too large. The bigger the graphic, the larger the file that they are. The bigger the file the longer it takes to load. Making sure that they are no larger than they need to be increases site speed. You can also compress your images with free tools that are offered online or ask your website provider to do that for you.
In addition to the size of the banner, you should also look at the quantity of banners. Having more than 5 banners is a waste of time. In researching hundreds of websites, most websites visitors are on the home page for less than 20 seconds. When you consider that it takes 5 seconds to go from one side to another, the fifth slide is rarely seen. Additionally, when we tracked the clicks from the banners, less than 1% of the customers that click on banners-clicked on the fifth one. In advising stores I have found Dealers that had as many as 20 home page banners. Just by dropping them down to 5 they increased page speed by over 5 seconds!
- Coding: Remember those Digital Partners you use to have? They are the ones that you thought were going to help you sell more cars and you just did not see a lift. Well, they are quick to get their code on the site, but not so quick about getting it off the site. (Especially when they are still tracking your customer data) Those tools take time to load, and that means the tools you no longer use are slowing your site down.
There is a great tool for finding out what is on your site or not. Ghostery is a free tool that you can add to your Google Chrome browser. It will also give you a brief explanation of what the items are and what they are used for. Once you get the list, talk to your site provider and ask them which of the tools they are using, and which the manufacturer is using. This will save you some time and while you are talking you can ask them to remove the others that you likely know should no longer be on the site. Then, ask your vendor-partners which ones they are using so you can remove the rest. If you accidentally remove a tool that a partner of yours put on the site, they will let you know and you can always re-add it.
- Chats: Chat tools should really never be on the home page. These are a larger resource that take up a lot of load time and it is like that annoying sales guy that meets you at the door like you are the first customer he has seen all week.
- Page Length: Page length can also be a concern. The automotive industry has conditioned the customer to know that they have to click from the home page to go where they want to go. The area above the fold (what the average screen shows when scrolled all the way to the top) is your most valuable resource. The majority of traffic will never scroll down. Still, many dealers add specials, interactive maps, flashing banners, reviews and all sorts of widgets on the home page. It sends a confusing message. Since most will never scroll to see it, it does not matter how confusing it is. The real problem is that it increases load time, and that means you are just making the customer wait to see what they want to see so the page can load what they do not want to see. (Unless they get tired of waiting for it to load and leave altogether)
- Widgets and Tools: Widgets and tools that are hosted on another domain (like most) take longer to load than anything that is built into the site. You likely need these tools but you should exercise caution in placing them. Providers such as trade-in tools, finance apps, and digital retailing tools want to be everywhere. They want a banner, to be in the navigation bar, and to be on every page that they can. Think this through with the customer in mind not the vendor. Host the banner on your site and make it clickable to the page on your site that has the tool.
- Measure: Measure, place, and then measure again. The link above is a great resource. You should measure your site often. When you decide to add a new tool get a new measurement, deploy the tool and then measure again. KNOW what affect it will have.
If you are still having challenges, feel free to reach out to me directly, I would be glad to help. firstname.lastname@example.org