Load Time & Bounce Rate: Why Speed Matters for Your Audience

Get my latest AI and tech news delivered to your inbox every Tuesday

It goes without saying that growing a business website is loaded with daily challenges, and new ones loom around every corner. As you scale your company, it’s often necessary to delegate site management to someone else on your team. However, it’s the successful management of those repetitive, less than flashy items of your website that determines your long-term success.

Load time and bounce rate sound like two things for the techs in the server room, but when they’re doing poorly, even the most viral content won’t deliver success and ongoing growth.

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of load time and bounce rate and ways to improve each so your website functions flawlessly across your audience’s phones and computers. 

What Is Load Time?

From a technical point of view, load time is how long it takes any one page of your website to load all of its content for viewing. However, from the point of view of a customer or prospect, it’s simpler than that. Load time is how quickly I get my answer after I click something. That might be a Google link to an article on your website, or it might be someone already on your site clicking a link for more product or solution information. The time from I want this to I have this needs to be faster than a person’s ability to decide no, I don’t.

The great news is that site speed is completely within your capabilities to measure! An excellent free resource like Pagespeed not only provides multiple page load speed metrics, but it does so for both the mobile and desktop versions of any URL you enter. Beyond that, it offers insight into the issue it discovers and ways to improve. A more powerful resource like GT Metrix delivers top-quality page load time analytics and insight, and it offers other services and packages that can help your website and company grow.

When considering your site’s load time, be sure to factor in any video playback or image loading. A website that renders 98% of its content lightning-fast but still has a couple of images that lag way behind in loading only makes the whole site appear slower than it is. And if this occurs on multiple pages of your site, your viewers won’t be impressed. 

Why Maximizing Site Speed Is Crucial

In our digital age, there is competition at every level for nearly any product or service a consumer wants. This means that even the most minor factors can increase or decrease your business profit by significant amounts. 

These days, speed equals money. An Unbounce survey showed that 70% of people say that the speed of the page affects their willingness to buy from an online retailer. Website loading times aren’t measured in seconds either; we are talking about micro-seconds, where a half-second can drive a bounce rate up by nearly 20%. The longer your page takes to load, the more likely you’ve lost a customer for good. A web store behemoth like Walmart discovered found that improving their page load time by 1 second increased conversions by 2%. That doesn’t look like a lot, but with their visitor volume, that could be an extra 2,000 sales for every 100k visitors. 

When analyzing your current website load times, consider what you are gaining or losing in the time it takes to load fully. If it’s your key brand video pushing up your load time, is it worth it for potential visitors to bounce before even seeing it? A survey of 5.2 million websites found the average page load time to just over 10 seconds from a desktop and around 27 seconds for mobile. Google recommends that your site loads in under 2 seconds to be effective. If your site takes longer than that, make sure you know why.

3 Major Drags on Page Load Time

Like a movie villain, once you know the “weaknesses” in your page causing slow load time, you can set about actually defeating them. Page load time is no different! Here are some active measures you can take to help ensure you’re maximizing the speed of your website.

Optimize Images and Video

The allure of a good video front and center on your site is substantial. Video comprises a decisive majority of the content internet users consume, so it makes total sense to want a video to sell your brand or solution. However, if that video is poorly optimized, your page load times will skyrocket (in a bad way). The same goes for uncompressed images; all those awesome pixel-laden photos clog your load time. 

To optimize images, first, size them appropriately. There’s no need for 20-megapixel photos on your site. Use Adobe PhotoshopCanva, or a similar photo editor to size your images for the web properly. Then be sure to export images as JPG files, which are compressed files that do not sacrifice image integrity. For your videos, use a tool like Handbrake to compress your video files without damaging their quality. 

Browser Cache

This is one of those items that you previously might have left for IT to handle, and maybe it really is their role to monitor. But let’s not let them have all the fun in understanding what it is. A browser cache contains bits of data search engines save to improve load times as new visitors come to your site. The amount and what exactly a search engine caches from your site is determined by you. 

The steps to ensuring your website is allowing browser cache may be a little techier than you care to dive into, but if you want to learn more about it, Google has some great resources

Plugin Management

The neat little tools we use to make our websites do more things can also really slow down the experience for visitors. Plugins are used for everything, including video playbacks, document signatures, and podcast players. They add more flair and function to your website, but you don’t want too many unused plugins running at once, which will drive up your page load time. 

Most website-building platforms like WordPress have a simple tab where all your downloaded plugins are stored. To perform a site check, navigate to this tab, see which plugins are turned on, and confirm they are performing a necessary task. Those that are either not turned on or don’t do a necessary function should be deleted. Deleting unnecessary plugins will help maximize your page load time. 

How to Calculate Bounce Rate

Your page load time directly affects your bounce rate, so let’s talk about that next! In short, bounce rate is a percentage that is calculated by measuring a site’s total visitors against those who land on the site and leave without taking any further action, such as clicking on a link or visiting another page on your site. 

A quick way of understanding bounce rate is that the higher the number, the worse a site is performing. A high bounce rate means that people are not staying on your site for long and not performing any action. 

Bounce Rate Versus Exit Rate

Another term frequently mentioned and confused with bounce rate is exit rate. While both terms represent key measurables used to calculate your overall SEO score by Google analytics, exit rate isn’t the same as a bounce rate. Exit rate is simply the number of visitors on your page who end their session, and since every visitor leaves, every visitor adds to the exit rate. In contrast, not every exit is a bounce. Visitors who visit more than one element of your site do not count toward your bounce rate percentage, but they do count toward your exit rate. 

What Is a Good Bounce Rate for Your Website?

Chasing a perfect bounce rate will drive you mad; not that it isn’t attainable, but it may be closer to spotting a unicorn in the wild. There just isn’t a consistent possibility that every visitor to your site will engage with multiple elements of it, especially when you’re measuring success in the volume of visitors. However, keeping your bounce rate low is a good indicator of your page load time, and combined, they hold a high impact on your overall SEO score.

Recent data indicates that a bounce rate anywhere from 40 to 55% is average. The average bounce rate by industry varies by almost 20%. For example, the food and beverage industry has nearly a 66% bounce rate, whereas the real estate industry hovers around 45%.

What Is 100% Bounce Rate?

This is one of those rare instances in life when 100% of something is a negative. This means that every person who lands on your website leaves without clicking on anything, viewing another page, or filling out a form for more information. They do absolutely nothing but leave your site. It’s a big problem, plain and simple. If your site is more than just a one-page website, then this 100% score is something that requires investigation. It’s entirely possible you’re not using or paying for the proper level of analytics, and you’re simply returning incorrectly measured data. 

The critical takeaway when looking at your bounce rate is locating the pages prior to exit. Look at the included pages in your exit rate and which ones seem to dominate your bounce rate. Track your visitor’s path on your site. User insight and behavior provide clues as to what might be driving people away from or deeper into your site. Once you have the correct data, you can start making effective changes to improve your website for your audience. 

How to Improve Your Site’s Bounce Rate

Speed is king for the modern internet user. Regardless of how they’re accessing your website, if it takes even a blink too long to be interactive, it might as well not load at all. While that may be slightly overstated, if your focus is growing your site or your business through your site, it wouldn’t hurt to think in such extremes. Since bounce rate is a crucial part of your SEO score and your user experience, let’s explore some ways to improve it.

Add Some Visuals 

Add some visuals – when in doubt, change the way you pull in an audience. Add a snappy brand video or animated homepage to grab your visitors before they can click away.

Optimize Your Site for Mobile

Visitors may come to your page on a variety of devices and browsers, and they may leave due to usability. When forms don’t load correctly or videos are in the wrong aspect ratio, it’s an immediate turn-off for web users. Make sure your site is responsive across browsers and with both desktop and mobile versions.

Update Your Page Design 

Maximize your user experience with a new page design! Some page layouts and color themes are not conducive to the user experience. It’s similar to the concept of the it factor in Hollywood, it’s hard to say precisely what is user-friendly, but you know when you experience it. Run some customer journey navigation tests (Hotjar is a great tool for this) and see if something is less user-intuitive than desired. Make sure visitors can clearly locate and navigate the site how you want them to and that your main call-to-action is easy to find.

Speed Up to Bounce Less

We’ve all visited a website that took forever to load — maybe the video wouldn’t load, or the article wouldn’t render. Not only do we not waste a lot of time waiting for it, but we are also hesitant to return out of fear of a repeat bad experience. 

One of the important tenets of good business is don’t expect more from your customers than you’d give to a business if you were the customer. In other words, if you’re site is loading slow, don’t think your users will endure it. Combine a faster, user-friendly site with focused, quality SEO, and your site will be two steps ahead!

Share this Post