Breaking Down Why Page Speed Matters
Posted in: Getting Started   -   August 13, 2013

This guest post is by Austin Gunter from WP Engine, the premium managed WordPress hosting platform that specializes in delivering the fastest WordPress speeds possible. Austin Gunter is a writer and a blogger.

Have you ever wondered just how fast your site actually needs to be to be in order to deliver the right level of customer experience to your clients? For example, what’s the difference between one second to load and two seconds? What about on the other end of the spectrum? Is there a point of diminishing returns on how fast your site is?

There’s a lot of great content floating around about how to make your webpage faster, and I’d like to ground that in some real-world data that will explain *why* speed is so important to web performance.

At WP Engine, one of the things we work tirelessly on is having the fastest-possible WordPress hosting for all sizes of sites, from the enterprise to the solo blog. We’re convinced that faster sites win the day when it comes to pageviews and SERPs. Here is some of the research behind that.

Why there are only 10 results per Google Search

One of the things that matters to user experience on the web is how quickly users are able to find what they are looking for. Google measures their success as a search engine by how quickly they can get users off the Google homepage and onto their search results.

When Marissa Meyer was at Google, she performed a survey around user experience to find out whether Google searchers preferred having 30 results per search result page, or 10 results per page. People overwhelmingly reported that they preferred having 30 results per page.

Google tested new pages with 30 results, using the original 10 result pages as a control. They discovered that the pages with 30 results per page delivered 20% less traffic than the pages with 10 results. Turns out, the pages with 30 results were loading just a half second slower than the other pages. That half-second was enough to reduce the traffic Google sent to those pages because people weren’t sticking around to wait.

Speed is A Competitive Advantage

Since 2010, Google has been factoring page speed into their search engine results. In their tests, they’ve also demonstrated that the longer users are exposed to slow web pages, the fewer searches they perform.

From the research listed above:

“Users exposed to a 200 ms delay since the beginning of the experiment did 0.22% fewer searches during the first three weeks, but 0.36% fewer searches during the second three weeks. Similarly, users exposed to a 400 ms delay since the beginning of the experiment did 0.44% fewer searches during the first three weeks, but 0.76% fewer searches during the second three weeks.”

Essentially, the slower a site is, below about 1.5 seconds, the less frequently users will return to the site.

Faster Sites Make More Money

Needless to say, if you’re operating a site that generates revenue based on pageviews or conversions, the above data is pretty compelling. The more you can do to boost the page speed of your sites, the more revenue you’ll generate. did some research to find out how much revenue a second of load time might mean for their site. How many fewer sales would a single second of additional load time mean for Amazon? The lost revenue would total $1.6 billion, which, even for a company as massive as Amazon, isn’t a rounding error.

Are You Not Entertained?

Now then, there are a series of other articles here that explain how you can make sure your site is as fast as possible. Generally speaking, as long as the site takes less than 1.5 seconds to load, it’s fast enough. If you get pageload time below one second, you’re crushing it.

Happy caching!


Writing off into the sunset...Austin is a social architect. Connector, Content, Community. @wpengine. The revolution will be inside our hearts. Follow him @austingunter

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  • Joshua Mervine

    Spot on, great post. Praying that the right people read it. 😉

    • Austin Gunter

      Haha, you should mention names so that Google Alerts show up 😉

  • Joshua Mervine

    Oh and “One of the things that matters to user experience on the web is how quickly users are able to find what they are looking for.” should be included under the #protip section.

    • Austin Gunter

      Yep, absolutely. There’s a great quote from Matt Mullenweg, one of the founders of WordPress, that we have a quality user experience with technology when we believe we’re in control of it. Slow pageload times make us feel out of control and stressed out. Fast pages are responding quickly to our inputs, and so we feel like we’re in control of the tech.

    • jdorfman

      Added thanks @jmervine:disqus

  • Chris Ueland / MaxCDN

    Thanks for posting Austin.

    • Austin Gunter

      You’re welcome Chris!

  • Peter

    “At WP Engine, one of the things we work tirelessly on is having the fastest-possible WordPress hosting for all sizes of sites” – and that is why we moved our hosting to WPEngine

    • Austin Gunter

      Thanks Peter 🙂

  • Eric Hamm

    Good Read. Crazy how impateint web users can be.

    • Austin Gunter

      That’s true 😉

      • Devin Walker

        I have to admit, I didn’t read it all… I’m too impatient/ADD but I’m sure it’s all rock solid and from what I did read it is. I’m tweeting and what not – awesome write up.

  • Nick Davis

    Great post Austin

  • Eric McGrane

    I’d love to try WPEngine for hosting, but the requirement to use a business plan if I need SSL support for my Opencart store is just too much. $104/month…faster is better….but is it 10x $$$ better? Yeesh!

    • Austin Gunter

      Hey Eric, I don’t necessarily want to pitch WP Engine over here, but you’ve asked a good question that I feel like deserves an equal answer.

      For SSL on WP Engine, you only need to upgrade to the Pro Plan, not the Biz Plan. Part of the reason is because of any site that needs SSL is nearly always accepting payments, and requires a high level of security. WP Engine responds to this professional need of business-class websites with an appropriate level of service and technology.

      • Eric McGrane

        Thanks for the reply Austin. I see that I made a mistake…I meant that I’d need the business plan. For my specific needs, I run a small non-profit site with a nearly-zero volume Opencart store. While I’d like to take advantage of WPEngine, I just can’t swing $100/month for hosting. BUT I certainly understand and agree with the pricing, absolutely. I just have a unique situation…so I’m really just disappointed! 🙂 Best of luck!

        • Austin Gunter

          Hey Eric,

          No worries whatsoever. I’m happy to help where I can. What’s the name of the non-profit, and the mission? I’m always interested in seeing what sorts of good work folks like you are doing, and if there’s a way we can help somehow.

  • CAD Professor

    interesting ….