The 5 First Steps in Optimizing Performance to Engage Users
Every marketer knows that faster pages lead to fewer bounces and that a faster site converts better overall…right? In reality, speed is important, but the benefits are finite. Once you achieve page load times in the 2-4 second range, you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns from a marketing conversion perspective. Read on for five steps you should take to structure your mobile and website optimization efforts to maximize conversions and drive your bottom line.
1. Define Measurable Goals
Know your company’s goals, and within those, whether there are specific goals for your website. For example, your website optimization project will be different if your primary goal is to increase inbound leads by 20% versus increasing eCommerce conversions by 20%. Pro tip: our friends at HubSpot have published an excellent glossary of website optimization terms.
Eliminate assumptions by understanding your website’s current business metric performance. Google Analytics is commonly used for this purpose and even provides an eCommerce dashboard out of the box. Choose a representative timeframe (for example, the previous fiscal quarter) and note the performance of key metrics that are related to the goals you identified in the previous step.
Define measurable website goals based on your analyses. Now that you understand your company goals and your current website performance, you can set specific, well-defined metric goals for your website and measure their performance relative to the representative timeframe you’ve chosen.
2. Load Every Page on Every Device
Optimize the entire visitor flow (not just your homepage and landing pages). Conversion marketers know that optimized landing pages convert between 27% and 42% better. But if your goal is to encourage users to spend more time on your site, and to have them view more pages, then you’ll need to optimize every page the visitor sees. The abandonment rate increases just as conversion potential decreases – 7% for every additional second of latency.
Optimize specifically for mobile. Mobile browsing has exploded, with over 50% of the time spent on eCommerce shopping occurring from mobile devices, and the sharpest uptick in spending coming from tablet users. Studies show that 29% of users who have a poor experience on your site will never return – that’s a huge opportunity cost. Your website optimization effort must include both desktop and mobile visitor contexts. Pro tip: don’t discount tablet-specific optimizations to maximize conversions!
Search engine crawlers are the bots behind the SEO scenes, so ensure you have optimized both desktop and mobile versions of your site. Google and other search engine providers rank those contexts differently because users have different but consistently high expectations between desktop and mobile browsing. For example, you actually want to disable most of your optimizations and remove dynamic content for search engines. Something that’s counterintuitive for a content marketer but works wonders for conversion!
3. Display Relevant Content First
Put mobile first. Whether you use responsive web design (RWD) or separate www and m.site deployments today’s omni-device website consumer expects a consistently great experience, including consistent treatment of your content. Planning for the smallest viewports and lowest-powered devices first forces you to optimize your content placement and your message, and enables you to amplify that impact as viewport real estate grows.
Showcase your high-value, curated content. User browsing and buying behavior prove that powerful content is key to a successful inbound strategy. Ensure every visitor is presented with relevant content first, and enrich the experience with CTAs and related content that encourages engagement with your site.
Withdraw workarounds. Studies from Google and others prove that users hate interstitial offer pages, distracting popups, and auto-playing multimedia content because they result in inconsistent performance and get in the way of the content they visited your site for in the first place. Often times companies insert these elements to direct users to “the right content” but studies show they’re actually just a good way to increase a user’s web stress.
4. Minimize Disruptions
Eliminate outages and opportunity costs. Any single point of failure or bottleneck can spell disaster for an online business by compromising employee productivity, risk losing revenue – on average $5,600/min – and customers, forcing you to pay SLA-based penalties, and severely damaging your brand.
Avoid page load or content errors. Page and content errors decrease a user’s perceived value of your site, as well as their own perception that they are capable of completing a task on your site. Ensure that you diligently monitor for and eliminate any content or server errors.
Go the last mile. Optimizing for efficiency isn’t just important for speed. Delivering less content and performing fewer round trips to assemble a mobile or desktop web page enables you to overcome shaky internet connections or frequently lost connectivity challenges to maximize mobility for your users and ensure that you capitalize on the booming mobile market.
5. Deliver content “Just In Time”
Prioritize above-the-fold content. We don’t just mean putting the right content above the fold, but also prioritizing rendering so that essential content displays above the fold, while less-important and invisible below-the-fold content remains unloaded until the user scrolls down. This creates an immediately engaging experience and delivers the right content to the user first.
Enrich user experiences with personalization. “Of course,” you’re thinking. But most personalization elements are treated exactly like other content. Comment areas, social media integration, and customer service callouts are most impactful (and really only relevant) once the user has had time to consume your key content. They should be deferred or delayed to avoid a negative performance impact.
Analyze while you optimize. Rich graphics and personalization features can feel like a must-have, and in some cases they are. In those (most) cases your users will have a better, snappier experience if you load content just before it becomes visible in the viewport. But A/B split testing is crucial as you optimize so you can ensure your efforts are justified and improve users engagement with your site.
Conventional wisdom around mobile website optimization has conditioned marketers and IT to chase every extra millisecond in page load time in the hopes that raw speed will increase conversions and drive more revenue. But following a measured approach to performance optimization can save you time, money, and even your sanity. By taking care to clearly identify your goals, and then to continue measuring your progress against those goals, you will not only improve your sites’ business metric performance but ensure you have time and resources available to move your business forward with things that really matter: better content and differentiated features.