Page Load Speeds and Your Online Community – by Gina Narramore, 4-Roads

Please enjoy this first post from new Guest Blogger, Gina Narramore of 4-Roads! #Follr Gina & 4-Roads on Twitter and check out more about Online Community Strategy Org 4-Roads here

There is no denying – the way the Internet is presented is constantly changing. In today’s hyper-connected world, web pages are much richer and contain more functionality, which results in increased amounts of page data and external resources to power them.

As technology advances, web users have become to expect a visually appealing community sites, and fast page loading times. The speed at which a browser loads your community content, means the difference between engagement or abandonment – a problem which could be detrimental to your online community.

Often, efforts to optimize web code, including the reduction of overall site density to improve download performance, are not enough to ensure a healthy and successful online community.

Page load speeds have to be considered. This post shows how a decrease in page load and rendering times benefit an online community.

Reduce Bounce rate

A web user may be searching for a particular type of online community to satisfy a certain motivation they may have. Your community may appear in their results due to keywords you’ve selected or ads you’re displaying on search engines. But, when this user lands on your community site, they immediately see that you don’t have what they’re looking for and they click away.

If your messaging is correct and your keywords accurate, it is important to take a closer look at website download speeds as a contributing factor to higher bounce rates within your online community.

A key factor contributing to high bounce rates is slow download speeds, especially for mobile site downloads. A user may initiate a visit to your online community and because the page takes too long to load, they abandon the community almost right away.

Enhance SEO

Since 2010, Google announced that the speed at which a web page loads would impact search rankings. Additionally, at SMX Advanced, Google’s Matt Cutts said that mobile sites, which are slow in performance, would be penalised.

Research, carried out by Zoompf, concluded that both front and back-end performance factors do correlate to increased rankings. They also state on the Moz Blog:

“We do know that fast loading websites gain more visitors, who visit more pages, for longer period of times, who come back more often, and are more likely to purchase products or click ads. In short, faster websites make users happy, and happy users promote your website through linking and sharing. All of these things contribute to improving search engine rankings.”

This statement is also valid with regards to online communities – if members are happy, they return, engage, become brand advocates and promote the community to gain new memberships.

Increase customer satisfaction

According to Kissmetrics, a one second delay in page loading time will decrease customer satisfaction by about 16% and 44% will people will tell their friends if they have a bad online experience.

This is supported in a study by the Aberdeen Group, which estimates that this one-second delay in page load time also results in a 7% loss in conversions and 11% fewer page views. This successfully provides evidence that optimising how quickly your community site loads, can have a significant impact engagement, response, conversions, and sales.

Higher engagement

If a user can’t find the information quickly on your community site homepage or their search is hindered by slow download performance, they will go elsewhere – likely to be a competitive site that can provide the expected content and download speeds – resulting in loss of online community engagement.

The order of how community content is delivered through the browser has an impact on whether someone engages quickly with your community or not.  Ultimately, it matters more how quickly a user is engaged than it does how fast an entire page loads.

Increase conversions

As page-load time increases, likely conversion rates will drop. This is confirmed by Kissmetrics, which shows 47% of consumers expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less. After this peak the rate drops by 6.7% for each additional second.

A conversion is when a visitor takes any type of action on your site. Within an online community, a conversion could be a membership sign-up or when a member submits a post within the community. As these are obvious benefits – which could ensure the health of your online community – taking steps to increase conversions should be considered.

An online community may already be seeing an adequate number of visitors, but there is failure to convert them in to members. Other than providing engaging and relevant content, download speed could be a factor that is impacting conversion rates.

For more of Gina’s expertise stay tuned to the #FollrBlog as she’ll be guest-posting on a bimonthly basis!