Do Shorter Page Load Times ALWAYS Improve Conversions?

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June 3, 2024

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Do Shorter Page Load Times ALWAYS Improve Conversions?

Do Shorter Page Load Times ALWAYS Improve Conversions?

You know the feeling – you click on a website, only to be met with a painfully slow loading screen. It’s enough to make you abandon ship and never return. As an SEO expert, I’ve long been preaching the gospel of page speed optimization. After all, nobody likes a sluggish website. But recently, I’ve started to wonder – is faster always better when it comes to conversion rates?

Let’s rewind a bit. I once took on a side project, building a hobby app for myself and a few friends. Things were going great – the platform I chose (JHipster) had me up and running in no time. But soon, other people started using the app, and I found myself in a bit of a conundrum.

The more I tried to optimize the site’s performance, the harder things got. I was learning the hard way about the limitations of the tech stack I’d selected. Things like SEO, social sharing, and caching were becoming real headaches. And the more I dug into it, the more I realized that my choices were starting to hinder the app’s long-term growth potential.

Cloudflare’s research shows that page speed has a direct impact on conversion rates. In fact, they cite studies showing that even a 1-second delay in page load time can reduce conversions by up to 7%. So it’s clear that faster is better, right?

Well, not always. As I discovered through my own trial and error, there are nuances to consider when it comes to the relationship between page speed and conversions. Let me share a few insights I picked up along the way.

First off, let’s talk about SEO. As a search engine optimization specialist, I know all too well the importance of making your website easy for Google’s crawlers to understand. But here’s the thing – traditional web pages and single-page apps (SPAs) operate quite differently under the hood.

With a standard website, the server sends back a complete HTML document for each page the user requests. Google’s bots can easily parse this HTML and figure out what the page is all about. But with a SPA, the initial HTML response is just a bare-bones template. The real content is loaded dynamically via JavaScript.

As Charlotte O’Hara points out, this can cause issues for search engine optimization. Google’s crawlers may not be able to fully execute the JavaScript, leaving them with only the generic template to work with. And that template is the same across all pages, making it tough for them to understand the unique content on each URL.

So in my case, even though I was working hard to optimize page load times, Google was still struggling to properly index and rank my website. It was a classic case of “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” – my choices around technology were coming back to haunt me.

Another area where page speed can get tricky is social sharing. Just like search engines, social networks rely on metadata within web pages to generate those neat little link previews. But again, with a SPA, that metadata isn’t always there or being properly rendered.

I learned this the hard way when I saw that every link shared from my website was generating the exact same generic preview, regardless of the actual content being shared. Not exactly the kind of social proof I was hoping for!

Caching was another headache. I thought I had the perfect solution in Cloudflare’s page caching features. But it turned out that Cloudflare was only caching the initial HTML template, not the dynamic content that my JavaScript was responsible for loading. So any performance gains I was hoping for didn’t really materialize.

The moral of the story? Sometimes, optimizing for page speed can come at the cost of other important factors like SEO, social shareability, and caching. It’s a delicate balance that requires a deep understanding of the technologies you’re working with.

Now, I’m not saying that page speed doesn’t matter – far from it. Charlotte O’Hara is absolutely right that faster load times can lead to better user experiences and lower bounce rates. And there’s plenty of research to back that up.

But the key is to consider page speed in the context of your overall marketing strategy and technology stack. Just because you can squeeze out a few extra milliseconds of performance, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see a direct boost in conversions.

As I learned the hard way, sometimes it’s better to take a step back and re-evaluate your choices. Maybe a simpler, more traditional web architecture is the way to go. Or perhaps you need to invest more time upfront in ensuring your SPA is properly optimized for search engines and social sharing.

The bottom line is, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to balancing page speed and conversions. It’s all about understanding your users, your business goals, and the constraints of the technologies you’re working with. With the right approach, you can create a fast, SEO-friendly website that keeps visitors engaged and drives those all-important conversions.

And who knows, maybe I’ll even dust off that old side project and give it another go. This time, with the wisdom of experience firmly under my belt. After all, as they say, “the more you know…”

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