Whatever's worked into Google's algorithm regarding page load times is probably a little more complicated than an average figure such as displayed in Google Analytics. I would recommend focusing on what's acceptable to your visitors, and generally on making your site as fast as possible.
Whether an avg. page load time of 4s is acceptable depends on the content you're serving, and on things like the distance between the server and your visitors. Hopefully, Analytics will soon allow the selection of Site Speed as a secondary dimension so that we can easily see which users are experiencing longer load times, where they're located, etc. You can already see which pages take longest to load, so to improve the overall experience you might want to have a look at those first.
Having said that, the Avg. Page Load Time (sec) for the one site I'm trying this on is currently 0.6s.
Independent (not by Google) tests have shown that more than 3 seconds is a problem for users. And Google's own tests show that shaving even 0.1 second off their SERPs load time increases user engagement.
I have worked with pages from major enterprises that have horrendous load times but excellent content. They often have bounce rates in the 80% to 90% area. The first "layer" of improvement is usually not hard to achieve and I've seen going from 10 seconds to 5 seconds drop the bounce rate down from 85% to 45%, with an incredible lift in conversions from the page (in that case, lead generation).
Getting below 3 seconds is, IMO, the holy grail. As robzilla said, Google's speed metrics are pretty complex. As a direct ranking factor, load time is minor. But it's indirect effect may be huge, especially with user engagement becoming prominent these days.
The big deal for me is not what is acceptable to Google. It's what is acceptable to the visitor, what serves them best. I prefer to move mountains for visitors rather than for Google. In this case, the two are well aligned anyway.
|It's what is acceptable to the visitor, what serves them best. |
That's the bottom line too. There's also the "perceptual" load time to keep in mind. You can have a page that takes 4 seconds to load but for the visitor, they may never see that latency. It all comes down to how you serve the content, and what order it is served in. I'm referring to the very start of the process from the moment that page is requested by the browser. As long as you can fill that viewport with relevant information, that's a +1.
The site is image-heavy due to the nature of its niche...
I'm looking into moving to a faster server. How can you measure the speed of a server?
Any of the free page speed tools online that generates a "waterfall" graph will show you how much time is used by each step, beginning with the time to first byte from the server, right up to fully loaded and initialized.
But the speed of the server is going to be a minor factor for the page load time, especially on an image heavy site. You will need to pay attention to things like image compression (shoot for a Photoshop 40% on jpg files), proper cache setting, use of a CDN (serving images from a differnt host name to allow browser multi-threading) and steps in that area.
If you have your own dedicated server, or even a VPS, and you're not using up the available resources, there's probably no need to upgrade. If you're on shared hosting and you can reasonably afford to scale up, then you should certainly consider doing so, even if only to be able to exercise more control over how you serve your content.
And if possible, make sure your server is geographically located near as many of your visitors as you can manage.
When it comes to your site's performance, just ignore Google. The idea of upgrading a server because it may or may not affect search rankings reminds me of the webmasters who, several years back, extended their domain registrations by several years simply because the thought circulated that Google evaluates a domain's age or, by extension I suppose, the time it's registered for. It's simply not where your priorities should be. Focus on the things your visitors will notice.
FWIW One of the top sites in a niche I am involved with which is extremely competitive is always very slow and is down about 10% of the time. There are people complaining about the site being down on their facebook fan page and there response is "If our site is down please try back at a later time or come back at non peak hours where there is not much traffic to the site"
For some reason the site ranks very well despite these server issues so I take it that google really does not put that much stock into load or up time.
I've noticed the way Google calculates site speed, it factors in external factors - like ads.
We have an extremely fast site that loads in < 2 seconds but the ads cause it to register 8-10 seconds in Site Speed. In real-world, this is really a non-issue for visitors since loading of the ads is in an iframe, so it doesn't interfere with bringing up the actual page. Shame that I'm getting knocked down in the SERPS for it (albeit very slightly) but oh well. There's nothing I can do about it.
|Shame that I'm getting knocked down in the SERPS for it (albeit very slightly) but oh well. |
How can you tell?
Well... I don't know for sure, but Google said site speed would have a minor influence on ranking, so I assume having a 8-10 second load time isn't doing me any favors.
If you can install stuff on your server then I recommend Googles Mod Pagespeed
If you cant install it on the server they also have plugins for browsers that analyse and give advice.
The apache module more than halved the page load time on one of my sites that was slow.
How ever fast the page might load from the server, add the time it takes for Google to serve their ads... makes a difference.
|Average loading time of my pages is around 4s |
Faster is better - don't make a potential customer (if this is what they are) wait. Almost instantaneous is the best load time.
IF page speed is a ranking factor it's one of those "secret sauce" secrets Google really should publish so we have an accurate target. Keeping it secret doesn't help improve the web.
Google webmaster tools suggest that 1.5 seconds or less is fast. While it's not a reasonable target if your site has any features beyond plain text/html and basic images I would work to keep the site in the top 33%.
> Independent (not by Google) tests have shown that more than 3 seconds is a problem for users.
Where are any independent test results on speed published?
good discussion - here's another tool from Google (which is, IMHO, another signal from the big G that this is important.)
I personally agree that this is a legitimate issue - not only *might* improving page load speed impact spidering and ranking, it will **definitely** impact the user's experience.
Slow loading pages are just sloppy work.
Those of us who used to work with the dialup user in mind know how important this is and I am still surprised when I run into a technical person who seems to have no clue that this could still be an issue.
One has to see things from the users' perspective.
I reduced the load time as much as I could on the server side of things and then went after the "bling" on my site such as:
--reduced image sizes where there were large pics above the fold
--reduced amount of images per page
What happened? My bounce rate increased and time on site and page views/visitor decreased! lol! In my niche, they like lotsa pics and want them big & glossy I guess.
Then, I swore I'd never do it, but after panda 2.0 I slathered my site in facebook like codes and twitter codes and have their respective counts displayed. Talk about chewing up page load times! And the last thing I want to do is promote facebook but I now wish I had started at least a year ago. Twitter is iffy, I might pull it because it just doesn't seem to do much and my target market really doesn't seem to be there (though companies and bloggers and webmasters after that same market are definitely piled high in twitter).
Bottom line for me is I'm in high gear atm building as many baskets of eggs AWAY from google as possible and doing whatever I can to increase visitor retention rates. Even if that means my page load time takes a hit, even if that slow page speed translates into another google algo hit. It's no matter, diversify traffic like crazy while I can and bling up the place as much as my visitors respond to.
What's now happening:
--My new subscriber rate has doubled (I was doing 4 digits a month before).
--Facebook is now in the top 10 for referrals (still don't have a fan page).
--Healthy jump in visitor time on site and page views/visitor
--My page load speed is now at an all time high (8 seconds the last time I checked in webmaster tools)
No matter, test and watch, test and watch. It's what my visitors want and how they respond that matters. I'm focused on building a brand and a following btw, not a google landing page so ymvw.
I use [woorank.com...] to test my load speed and other "ranking" guesstimates, but I'm not sure how reliable you experts consider it to be. I end up with 3s for many of my very small sites...
the only value useful is the one reported in gwt.
Mine there is is at around 2.1 sec.
But that's just because google adsense are slow. On page without google adsense my load time in GWT is at 1.1sec
DNS can make a difference
Safari has a built-in page load debugger. It shows the total page load time, times for various types of files, and times for each individual file.
Develop > Show Web Inspector. Then click the "Resources" tab and choose "Time."
Using Safari is nice because you can just take your laptop to different networks and try them out (cafe wifi, library connection, work, home, cellular, wimax, different carriers, etc...).
As a point of interest, this page took 2.01 second to load for me.
|I installed page load measurement for GA a few days ago... What are your page load times? |
Ironically, removing Google Analytics code from all my pages sped up the load time by almost 50%. The other big offender is Google Adsense.
|If you can install stuff on your server then I recommend Googles Mod Pagespeed |
If you have root access to a server, you're probably better off optimizing your sites manually to minimize any overhead otherwise caused by the mod. When I tried Mod_Pagespeed, it actually slowed down my site. YMMV, of course, so it's good that you tested and got great results, but you're likely to get even better results if you turn off the mod and optimize your site by hand; the speed optimization documents by Google and Yahoo! are a good starting point.
Lots of images? Try CSS sprites. Also, make sure your images are fully optimized, your cache settings are correct, and you're pulling your images from the cloud.
@keyplyr You're SO right about removing GA. Just tried it this morning. Dramatic improvement. Wonder what I'll do... Thank you for the hint.
IMO the best way to analyze your web site activity & visitor traffic is to DL your daily raw server logs and process on your local machine using one of many software programs available. I use (free) [analog.cx...]
|A huge drag on my site load time is the AdThis and Facebook Like buttons |
I find both are terrible for slowing down page loads. Also, any Twitter widget.
AddThis is the worst of the three, and disabling it is on my to-do list. Facebook is bad, too, but I get far more benefit from that, so I'll tough it out for a little longer.
I've seen up to a 2 second load time hit with the Twitter / FB widgets
However, you can load them via iframe, so it doesn't interfere with the actual page itself. Google's speed metric still counts it though...
The widgets bring in a lot of traffic for me, so I'm not removing them.
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