Is Your Small Business Website Speed Driving Customers Away?

by Joanne Steele on June 15, 2011

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Speedy delivery 19th Century style

I discovered an article in Travel Daily News titled, “The Impact of Travel Site Performance on Consumers,” which is important for any small business website. If you are hoping to reach customers to influence their buying decisions, generate sales or secure reservations online, this article should be a wakeup call.

A study conducted by PhoCusWright Inc. for Akamai Technologies looked at how website performance affected important things like consumer usage, loyalty and repeat business.

Here are a few of the results that impact you:

  • 57 percent of online shoppers will wait three seconds or less before clicking away from a website.
  • Younger consumers are even more impatient, with 65% leaving in less than 2 seconds.
  • A third of respondents would be less likely to revisit a site after experiencing technical problems like slowness or errors on the page.
  • Customer loyalty is affected by poorly performing websites.

Although this study was focusing on travelers and travel websites we can expect that web users won’t act differently when using non-travel related small business websites.

The study results show that speed and accuracy of your small business website are essential.

The accuracy of your content you can handle by regularly removing outdated information, updating calendars and checking for broken links.

Let’s look at ways you can evaluate and improve the speed of your small business website.

How to tell how fast your website loads.

Speed check your website by using a free speed check website. I chose the following two, but there are many other alternatives online.

At Vertain.com, you get a basic number and an easy to understand guide for evaluating your results.

At Pingdom.com you get more information that might be of assistance to your webmaster in helping you to improve your speed.

If your website is close to the speed your customer expects – under 5 seconds, you’re probably good to go. But read on to make certain you continue to do all the correct things to keep your great speed.

If your website is loading in 5 to 10 seconds, you have problems that you might be able to correct with a few changes. You’re losing some of your most impatient customers which will include many of the younger crowd that expect 2 second load times.

If your website is loading in over 10 seconds, you need to get some professional help. It may mean you need to change internet service providers (ISP) and it may mean that you need to get that old html website replaced by a sleek new fast loading WordPress model.

How to improve your loading speed.

1. If you have a WordPress website, delete all unnecessary plug-ins.

There are cool, free plug-ins you might have been enticed into adding to your website to stick messages up here and there and to enhance the function of certain aspects of your website.

Some of them are vital, like plug-ins that help you keep spam out of your comments box.

But others are of little value and are slowing down your website.

Do a plug-in housecleaning and recheck your speed.

2. Use the latest version of WordPress.

There may be speed saving updates that you can benefit from just by updating your files. For safety sake, be sure to save your files before updating.

3. Resize the photos you are using on your website.

Use a free photo editing and resizing program like Google’s Picasa to make your photo files as small as possible before uploading them to your website. Web images look fine at a resolution of 72 dpi (dot per square inch).

Go to the Picasa help files to learn how to use Picasa to resize those photos.

There are other fixes you probably need to get your webmaster to help you accomplish. Have him or her check out this article by Bob Alpakar, “How to Increase the Loading Speed of Your WordPress Blog.”

All the research I did for this post suggests that your best chance of having a speedy small business website starts with good software and a reliable ISP – again, I recommend WordPress, and I’m a big fan of the Thesis Theme framework.

Here are several more posts about WordPress and Thesis:

Musings About SEO, WordPress and Thesis for Rural Tourism Businesses

Is Your Rural Tourism Business Website a Marketing Asset or Liability?

Small Town Motels, RV Parks and B&B’s! You Need More Than a Static Website to Compete.

Photo on flickr by cotaroba

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