Slow websites be warned!
Google recently revealed in a blog post that “in the future, Chrome may identify sites that typically load fast or slow for users with clear badging.”
Given that slow websites are already a deterrent to consumers, now may be a perfect time to optimize your site, say experts.
“It’s all about speed for consumers on the web,” says Holger Mueller, a vice president and principal analyst at Silicon Valley-based Constellation Research, a tech research and advisory firm. “Consumers deserve and want faster websites.”
While load time can be impacted by various factors, generally speaking, anything under two or three seconds is considered fast, he says.
If Google moves forward with badging, “it’s a significant change in transparency,” says Mueller.
The Nov. 11 blog post said badging “may take a number of forms and we plan to experiment with different options, to determine which provides the most value to our users.”
The post also stated that Google’s “plan to identify sites that are fast or slow will take place in gradual steps, based on increasingly stringent criteria. Our long-term goal is to define badging for high-quality experiences, which may include signals beyond just speed.”
It showed as an example a page with a red triangle with a message that says "usually loads slow."
Google didn’t respond to queries from Newsday for further comment.
“As far as guidelines and implementation, this is not a done deal,” says Liz Miller, a vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research. “This is an opening shot across the bow.”
Google needs to provide further details, but if badging does happen “it could be a huge negative” for a site to be labeled slow, she said, adding, “regardless of a badge or anyone slow-site 'shaming,' there’s a business impact here if you have sites that are poorly loading and poorly performing.”
But she says most small businesses should be OK if they built their website using some type of platform that is fairly modern.
“Small businesses shouldn’t freak out right now,” but they also shouldn’t ignore the underlying reason why Google wants to do this, Miller says.
It’s Google’s job to offer up the best sites to users.
Google offers a free tool to test web speed and suggest improvements called Google’s PageSpeed Insights , says Scott Darrohn, a managing partner at fishbat, a digital marketing firm in Patchogue.
It gives you an overall score from 0 to 100, he says, noting 90 to 100 is optimal.
Some culprits that slow down a website are videos and images, Darrohn says.
If you want to use video, he suggests creating a Vimeo channel and uploading your videos directly there and then pulling your videos from Vimeo onto your own website rather directly uploading them from your phone to your website.
This is because the video is streamed from Vimeo’s servers rather than your own server, generally resulting in a quicker load time, he says, noting he does this for his own website.
He also uses gzip, a software application used for file compression, which can also speed up your site.
On the back end, he suggests limiting the number of page redirects from old landing pages to new landing pages and also looking at the server your website’s hosted on and how many other websites are on that server, which can impact performance.
Dean DeCarlo, president of Mission Disrupt, a Huntington Village-based digital marketing agency, says when he gets a new client it’s not uncommon for their site to have up to a seven-second load time, which he then helps reduce.
Even without badging it’s wise to quicken load time, he says, noting “speed is heavily counted in SEO rankings.”
For many businesses, it doesn’t mean completely revamping your website but rather maintaining it, he said. He agrees images are a top reason sites run slow, due to files being too large and needing to be compressed.
Tools like WP Smush and TinyPNG can help with image compression, he said.
Also having too many plug-ins (a software add-on to expand the functionality of an existing program) might slow down a site, as well as having image carousels that automatically display images on your site, DeCarlo said, noting you can speed up a site by instead having people manually click on the images to view.
Nearly 70% of consumers say page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online retailer.
Source: Unbounce’s 2019 Page Speed Report