This complex web we weave… or why fast pages matter

by / Tuesday, 10 May 2011 / Published in Blog

If evidence were needed that writing for the web is a much more complicated beast than old-fashioned print, then the announcement by Google of its new Speed feature in its Analytics service is just that.

For many web owners they, perhaps reasonably, think that all websites are pretty much the same once they are up and running. Not so.

Depending on what’s serving up your web pages and associated content, a host of factors come into play which will either make, or sometimes break, your intended audience’s chances of actually reading that content.

It’s far from exhaustive but here’s just a few things that affect a web page’s performance:

  • The number of elements on the page – pictures, embedded apps, total page length, and so on.
  • Whether the page is referencing content being drawn in from other servers in other locations.
  • The speed of the connection to/from the hosting server.
  • How well connected this server is with the rest of the web.
  • The speed of the reader’s web connection.

If you’re a marketing person with a focus on getting the ‘message’ out to your intended audience, and using the web to do so, you might think that this is all a bit esoteric and not really that relevant to what you do or how you achieve your communications goals. You couldn’t be more wrong.

That’s because everything is so deeply intertwined and interdependent. A poorly performing website will kill any investment made in producing great web copy. Be it case studies, product testimonials or any other written marketing collateral, if the website performs poorly it will give potential and existing customers a bad experience and put them off.

But it doesn’t end with a bad customer experience, bad as that is. An under-performing site will also hit your search engine rankings. Surprised? Don’t be. Here’s the word straight from the horse’s mouth.

At Google, we are passionate about speed and making the web faster, and we are glad to see that many website owners share the same idea. A faster web is better for both users and businesses. A slow loading landing page not only impacts your conversion rate, but can also impact AdWords Landing Page Quality and ranking in Google search.SOURCE.

Read that last sentence again. “A slow loading landing page not only impacts your conversion rate, but can also impact … ranking in Google search.”

In other words, no marketer can afford to be indifferent about the proficiency of their website. If it just performs slowly (or slower than other similar websites) then all that carefully crafted content could end up being for nothing as it could detrimentally affect your search engine visibility.

So what’s a non-technical business or marketing person to do? You may not have the expertise or skills to take the technical people to task. But that’s also where Google comes in very handy. Google Analytics allows you to be a proficient driver of your website without having to understand exactly how the engine works. You just need to know how to drive.

And this is precisely what the new beta version of Google Analytics allows you to do. The new Site Speed report will give you a crucial handle on what’s going on.

Amongst the information you can glean from the new Site Speed Report in Google Analytics, you’ll find:

  • Content: Which landing pages are slowest?
  • Traffic sources: Which campaigns correspond to faster page loads overall?
  • Visitor: How does page load time vary across geographies?
  • Technology: Does your site load faster or slower for different browsers?

So if you passionately believe, as we do, that words really do matter when it comes to telling your product or service’s story, then you’ll be just as passionate about the website that serves up that message. If it doesn’t deliver in terms of speed then you’re fighting an uphill battle.

But equally, if you can overcome the technical gotchas that slow a site down, you’re going to massively help the chances of your site making an impact; for both reader and search engine alike.

Yahoo Yslow – “YSlow analyzes web pages and suggests ways to improve their performance based on a set of rules for high performance web pages.”


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