Back in the 1970s I think it was, there was a movement that gathered steam that sought to drive down the speed limit on the interstate highway system. The “double nickel” became the national speed limit, for all intents and purposes. I think that movement was largely to combat rising gas prices (there were major oil price shocks in the '70s). Savvy marketers, rather than say something boring like “Gas prices are rising, slow down, you'll use less gas,” got all emotional and went for the killer tagline:
See, there was a shred of evidence that showed that more traffic deaths occurred when the speed limit was 70 versus 55. I'm not here to debate that (it seems like common sense to me, this coming from a guy who enjoys speed)…I am here to say, though, that lack of speed kills your website.
Let me explain.
When you visit a website, and it loads quickly, you may actually stay a minute or two to read what's there. However, in this world of instant gratification, short attention spans, and remotes always at the ready to change the channel, we lose patience when there is even the slightest hiccup in page loads. In short, we leave.
Your website visitors are doing that, too. Don't think for a second that “they'll wait.” Website visitors will not wait for a slow site to load. They just won't. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
That's why Google makes page loads a search algorithm factor. They know that the best sites have fast page loads and visitors stick around. They also know that slow page loads drive visitors away, never to come back (or hesitant to come back, at the very least).
Look, we've all done it. If a page takes too long to load, I bolt. Take a look at these two graphics:
[/raw]The one on the left is for a page that has literally almost nothing on it. In fact, it's a test page for this very website, on a different host. All that's there is a password box, where you have to enter a password in order to get to the site. I do that on development servers and sites so that the search bots can't get in and index the sites; it's a simple way to circumvent dealing with .htaccess files and duplicate content issues.
The second graphic is for the home page of this actual site. Look at the performance grade–it's 1 point higher than the page with almost nothing on it. See the requests? That's reflective of all the “bits and pieces” that the web server has to go grab in order to load the page. The load time is a second faster, even though the page is 31 times bigger in size.
There are two big takeaways from this:
- This site, in production, could use a LOT of optimization. There are too many components to load. I could dig deeper to find that I could combine my CSS files, reduce image sizes, and do a whole lot more.
- This site, even with the considerations immediately above, loads hella fast (yes, that's a technical term). There is a reason for that.
Here's why. Last week, as alluded to here, caused me to re-evaluate my webhost. I've had issues with my particular VPS (Virtual Private Server) since I upgraded to it. At first, with Host Gator, I just had a standard hosting plan. But as I brought more websites on board, along with more customers, it made sense to go to something a lot more robust and flexible. That was great–in theory.
However, the reality is that the server, in my humble opinion, quite simply sucks. It had issues from the get-go. The most frequent issue was that the nameserver service failed regularly, often dozens of times a week. Each time that occurred, all off my websites were offline and inaccessible. Now, it was only a couple of minutes each time. But those minutes add up.
You know what's worse than a slow-loading page? A page that NEVER LOADS.
What's even worse is that visitors may NEVER come back after getting a “page not found” error message. After all, it looks like the site is dead. Why come back?
Google thinks the same: If a website fails to load, their little bot takes note of that; it does try again, but after a while of checking, it simply throws up its hands and gives up. If you're using Google Webmaster Tools for your site, you'll be in luck: Google will send you a note telling you it cannot access your site. You better go figure it out.
Those slow or no-load statistics will haunt you for a while, too. You have to string a bunch of wins together before Google forgets your old site statistics.
Now, getting back to the point: I changed webhosts for this site. I am downgrading my Host Gator account to a reseller account to use for my customers. I may even just move all my assets off HG and onto a different webhost altogether (it's a major undertaking).
The webhost I'm using is set up specifically to run WordPress sites. It's not cheap (but when you think about how much revenue I've lost because my pages loaded slowly or didn't load at all, that's really not a very salient point).
But damn if it's not really fast. It's called Synthesis and I highly recommend it. But it's not for everyone.
The customer service is the best I've ever had. I was chatting with the owner of the business just yesterday; yes, he fields support requests! While many would think this was a small-time operation (I mean, why doesn't the owner hire a bunch of lackeys to do the grunt work), I think different: I LOVE that the owner is invested in his company to the point that he will sacrifice his time in order to ensure that customers are getting an out-of-this-world experience.
Oh, by the way, here are some sites that use Synthesis: GeekBeat.tv, BlogWorld Expo, Jay Baer dot com, chrisg.com, Chris Pirillo dot com, Yoast.com (that's a great write-up), and Chris Brogan dot com, to name just a few heavyweights using Synthesis.
Why Synthesis is not for everyone: It is not your typical commodity web host. It runs only WordPress. There are no automated scripts you can run to set up WordPress (they do a fresh install of WordPress for you as part of the service). They can migrate your existing site from your current server to theirs–for a price (starts at $95). You can't run some scripts on the server and some plugins just won't work. WP Twin, for example, just won't run on the platform.
But all that aside, the reliability thus far is awesome, the support is outstanding, and the speed is mind-boggling. If you're serious about your website, give Synthesis a look. It's not for everybody, but it is a really spectacular web host.