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Is Site Speed Important to CRO?

Optimising your site to achieve the best possible conversion rate is very important, but it can be an area that webmasters overlook as they focus on general SEO to rank high on SERPs and drive traffic.

Traffic is clearly vital to the survival of a site, but unless you can convert visitors into paying customers, there is little use in having a highly visible site.

Modesto Siotos has written an interesting piece of SEOMoz, investigating the relationship between SEO and the speed with which a site operates, with nods towards conversion rate optimisation (CRO) and how this is impacted in turn.

It is necessary to first think about site speed from a raw SEO perspective, because it is now three years since Google revealed that this would be considered as a ranking signal. That means that site speed is one of the many aspects which are used by its algorithms, to judge the worthiness of a particular web property.

As such, it would be an act of complacency to ignore site speed, when optimising it might give you a better chance of getting on Google’s good side.

When you come at this issue with CRO in mind, things become even more interesting. Siotos highlights a number of studies which have shown how poor page load times can be incredibly detrimental to conversion rates.

A report from Walmart, found that if a site loads within two or three seconds, the percentage of visitors who are likely to be converted into customers is at its peak. This drops off sharply as pages take longer to load and by the nine to 10 second market, you are likely to have lost all of your audience.

In 2012, a report from Akamai showed that 70% of web users now expect to find that e-commerce sites have loaded in under two seconds. This is up from 47% in 2009 and shows that there is even more pressure on webmasters to optimise load times, so that conversions will then follow.

This is not only something that people using a desktop computer with a fixed line broadband connection are anticipating; the same percentage of customers will want to see a site loaded just as quickly on a portable tablet device.

This means that webmasters might need to re-think their mobile strategies to account for the growing need for sites that are optimised for access from a gadget that may not have the speediest data connection in the world.

CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) applies to sites whether you are expecting inbound clicks to come from organic search results or paid ads and so site speed optimisation should be seen as a relevant concern for any webmaster.

The ultimate aim is to think of SEO not as optimising purely for a search engine, but for the holistic search experience. Once you have managed to get a visitor over to your site, the battle has only just begun; it should not be treated as if it is over.

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