One thing that we hear a lot from business owners is questions and concerns about their site speed, and questions like these have only increased since Shopify have inserted a new feature, the Shopify Site Speed Tool, onto the admin panel of your account.
After seeing your speed report, and after seeing the number, you probably had a mini heart attack thinking that your website is too slow and that you are losing customers because of it! But do not fear; all is not what it seems, as I will explain.
So, what is 'Site Speed' and do you really need to worry about it?
The biggest problem with this is that it provides you with a score, and with our education system as it is (that’s another rant for a different day!), we are trained to associate high scores with good and poor scores as bad.
“But my score tells me that my store is slower than similar stores!”
Yes, it probably is - but is this a bad thing? Probably not.
So, don’t worry! If you want a little more information though, and to dig into the details, then read on.
The biggest factor we hear when people complain about their site speed is that they are worried about their rankings on search engines and that they would like to rank higher. Hence, when they see their page speed as a low number they are concerned that this is holding their business back.
Let's dig into this though...
Google has openly said that they have hundreds of different ‘signals’ that go into their algorithms to help determine their ranking, and each one is differently weighted depending on the search query. Every time Google speaks about this though, they have consistently made it clear that better content will always win.
Better content means better blog articles, better product descriptions, better copy on your website, better and more relevant images. Think about it for a second, what would you prefer? A website that answers all of your questions providing you with the relevant information in a concise manner but loads slowly? Or a website that loads incredibly quick, but does not actually answer the questions that you have, or give you meaningful content?
In our research, it seems page speed will come into play in a ‘tie-break’ scenario, meaning the ranking of content is very similar, so it goes to other factors to decide which to rank higher.
So, before worrying about your page speed, it is better to focus your time, energy and money on improving the content on your site, and releasing new content in the form of blogs/articles answering questions that your customers have.
There are two main factors that drastically drop your score, these are images and apps. Realistically though, once you have done the basics you don’t need to worry about them.
With images, you need to make sure that you compress them before you upload them onto your site, as the larger the image the more data you are transferring over to the users’ device. If you have already done this, then that's great, don’t worry about it.
With modern web design, you need images to make your site look appealing and to keep your users on your website. Remember, content is more important than page speed, and a big factor in how Google finds out whether your website has good quality content or not is if the user stays on your website for a longer period of time. So, making your website look beautiful/appealing through images is necessary. So, optimise the image file size and physical size and then you have done everything that you need to do.
Apps drop your page speed down as they are hosted on separate servers than your Shopify site, which means to access the app, you need to go from one server to another to collect the information. Doing this takes more time, and it will drop your site speed score.
BUT, before you go deleting every app that you have on your store, remember you are selling products! So, ask yourself, is this app generating additional revenue? Chances are, you installed an app to solve a problem or fill a need, and without it, you will lack that specific functionality.
So, ask yourself, is an extra 0.3 seconds of load speed worth more to me than the revenue that this brings in? Or, is an extra 0.3 seconds of load speed worth more than the functions you have gained by installing the app? If yes, those 0.3 seconds are more important then that's great, delete the app, remove the code from your theme, and enjoy the higher speed. If no, that's great too, keep the app and enjoy the extra money you have earned because of it.
As a side note, whenever thinking about installing an app, make sure to do your research and ensure that the app is well-written, well-supported and well-reviewed. This will help ensure that the app is of high quality and will not needlessly slow down your website.
Still, need a little convincing? Well, let’s look at some examples.
We all have heard of H & M, a global clothing company, with a market cap of $1.5 billion, and annual sales totalling approximately $25m. So, we can safely say they are doing something right with their sales.
Would you like to know their page speed? Well I did, so I ran their UK store through Google analytics and you can see the results below:
4… Just take this in for a minute, they have a score of 4, yet they have a net worth of $1.5 billion... And just go to their UK store and have a look, does it feel slow? Does it put you off from making a purchase? Would you rather use a competitors website because their speed score is higher when the time it takes to load is actually the same? I don’t! And the revenue figures speak for themselves.
There are more important things to focus on than a score given to you, and you would never think that if H & M raised their score to 40 they would double their net worth - because it doesn’t play as big a role as you think.
Let’s go to the extreme and look at one of the biggest companies in the world as another example. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard from and bought from Amazon. Amazon has a market cap of $1.5 Trillion, 1000 times higher than our previous example, with a team of developers of approximately 36,000 who are some of the most intelligent, highly performing developers in the world.
So, what about their page speed? You would think that with an army of developers of that size and intelligence they must have a perfect score:
Nope, only 39... Which, to be honest, is a lot higher than H & M, but Google still says it’s a poor score. So, again I ask, does it feel slow? Does it put you off from making a purchase? Would you rather use a competitor's website because their speed score is higher when the time it takes to load is actually the same?
I have not once thought when browsing on Amazon that this website needs to load quicker. Perhaps I would wish it was slower to prevent me from buying so much stuff! But, again, that’s a story for another day!
To be blunt, page speed scores are not a good metric to measure the real-world success of your website. This score is presented in a manner by Google, SEO experts, marketers and many others, that if you get a perfect score your sales will increase, your visitors will increase, your ranking will increase, but this is simply not true.
Chances are, there are probably bigger problems in your business and on your website that shaving an extra half-second to 1 second off your page speed will not solve. The money and time that you invest into creating a better email sequence, or better product descriptions, will earn you multiple times more revenue than shaving that extra second off.
For final reassurance that you probably don’t need to do anything, here is a link to another tool to find about your Page speed:
Run your website through this tool and look at two numbers: Page size and load speed.
If your page size is lower than 10MB and your speed is lower than 4 seconds then you have nothing to worry about. Focus on other efforts first to improve your business, and once you have your copy nailed, your product descriptions are amazing, you have a rock-solid email marketing sequence for new sales, abandoned checkouts and a newsletter to die for, then perhaps you can then focus on your page speed - but chances are, you probably won't worry about it then, as you will have realised a score is not an indicator of how well your website is doing.