What is Considered a Low Website Loading Time?
Site speed is a critical component of your user’s online experience. In today’s world, users are impatient and demanding, and they’ll make a decision within a matter of seconds. If your site loads more slowly than a competitor’s, you may instantly lose a potential customer. To make matters worse, slow site speeds can also interfere with your search ranks, stifling your potential traffic growth.
Obviously, the faster a site loads, the better. But not all of us have the time or resources to shave our loading times down to mere microseconds. It’s even harder to avoid having a low site speed when there are no specifically outline site speed requirements—so what exactly is a “low” website loading time?
Why Site Speed Is So Important
There are two main reasons why your site speed is important, and both of them affect your bottom line as an online business.
First, your site speed is a major component of user experience. Today’s users demand content faster than ever, and if they’re forced to wait around for a slow-loading webpage, they may become frustrated. Ultimately, that’s going to lead to one of two possibilities: they’re either going to leave your site before it’s finished loading, or they’re going to be left with a negative impression of your brand. Neither of those options are good for an online brand.
On the other hand, if you keep your site loading speeds as fast as possible, you’ll greatly improve your user experience, and even if it’s only subconsciously, your users will be more likely to stick around or revisit your site in the future.
Second, Google takes your page loading times into consideration when it calculates your eventual rank. Google hasn’t completely clarified what types of loading times it takes into consideration, or if there’s a threshold for “bad” site speeds, but we do know that faster loading sites tend to rank higher in the SERPs. That means if your site loads too slowly, you’re going to have a reduced stream of traffic from organic searches, but if you can improve your site speed, you can increase your visibility and search traffic.
How to Measure Site Speed
Site speed can actually be considered in a number of different ways, and all of them culminate in your overall speed and loading times.
Document Complete-Based Page Loading Times
When you access a webpage, the information streams in gradually. You see words and images appear on the page at different times, and this is especially apparent on slow-loading websites. A webpage is considered loaded as “document complete” when it has loaded enough to allow a user to start clicking buttons or entering written text. It’s possible that not all of the content is fully loaded, but a user can begin to take action.
Full Render-Based Page Loading Times
On the other hand, it’s also possible to measure page loading times based on when the entire page is fully loaded. This loading speed is always longer than a “document complete” loading speed, but the difference between the two values may be different for two different sites.
Time to First Byte
Finally, it’s also possible to measure your overall site speed by looking at the “time to first byte” (TTFB) metric, which is the amount of time it takes for a browser to download the first byte of information from an online source. Essentially, it measures whether or not there is any significant delay between the request for information and your web server’s response. Where page loading times generally depend on your site settings and the type and amount of content you have on your page, TTFB measurements are usually indicative of your server settings.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Now that we know how site speed can be measured in different ways, we can come up with a ballpark for what are considered “good” or “bad” metrics. Like I mentioned earlier, Google doesn’t publish what types of site speeds it takes into consideration, or if there are any specific numbers it looks for, but we can make reasonable assumptions for target loading times based on other sites we’ve seen, and based on a recent analysis by Google.
According to this analysis, the average “full render” page loading time is roughly 7 seconds on desktop devices, with a median page loading time of roughly 3 seconds. On mobile devices, the average page loading time is more than 10 seconds, with an average of nearly 5. It’s difficult to compare individual sites against such broad metrics, especially with such a sharp rift between the median and mean values, but if your site loads slower than the average page, you can generally consider your site to be too slow.
According to Moz, the median TTFB figure for high ranking websites is roughly 0.4 seconds, with that same figure being closer to 0.6 seconds for lower-ranking websites. If your site’s TTFB is greater than 0.6 seconds, you have some room for improvement.
If you’re looking for a way to measure your own site speed to compare it against these metrics, try out WebPageTest. It’s a free tool that will allow you to perform multiple types of tests to measure your site’s performance.
How to Improve Your Site Speed
If your page loading times are suffering, there are a number of ways you can take corrective action:
- Reduce the size of your images. High-resolution images are the usual culprits for slow page loading times. Reduce them to decrease the size of your website.
- Keep your content limited. Including tons of images and videos on your site is going to drag your speed down. Keep it clutter-free.
- Get a caching plugin. Use some form of caching on your site, but don’t tinker around with the settings too much—you could do more harm than good if you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Keep your site free of excess information. Strip images of meta data and delete any unused blog drafts. Your site needs to be lean if you want it to be as fast as possible.
However, if your TTFB site speed is what’s lacking, there are three potential reasons why:
- There could be a network latency disrupting the connection between a visitor and the server.
- The web server could be overloaded with requests, spreading bandwidth thin.
- The website’s back end is unable to generate content quickly enough for the server to distribute.
These problems can usually be corrected by upgrading your server capacity.
Putting Things In Perspective
There are two factors you should bear in mind when analyzing your site speed and making preparations for the future:
- Every site is unique. What’s considered “fast” for one type of site may not be considered “fast” for another type. For example, open Google’s homepage, then open CNN’s homepage. You’ll notice a huge difference, but both sites have a very high user experience rating. You shouldn’t make your site fast compared to the rest of the world—make it fast for the type of site it is.
- The big picture is what’s important. Ultimately, lowering your site loading times by half a second is a positive change, but it’s not nearly as effective as improving user experience with bigger changes—like institutinga more intuitive navigation.
Still, if you’re concerned about your site speed and you want to make it better, you can only stand to benefit. Don’t obsess over site speed, but do whatever it takes to give your users a great experience.
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