Ten things every marketer should know about web performance no.1: why performance matters

The world of web performance is in many ways a very technical one. It’s niche, specialised. It’s technical people tinkering with code.

To some extent, this is all true. But it’s not – or shouldn’t be – the whole truth.

When we’re busy working on ways to make web pages load faster, it’s important not to lose sight of why we’re doing it. Most of the time, we’re helping organisations to make more sales. And that makes it something that marketing departments should care about.

So we thought we’d highlight a few things about web performance that we think every marketer should know.

1 Why web performance matters

For ecommerce sites, this one is easy: faster websites make more money. There are a number of well-publicised case studies that highlight the link between page load time and key metrics such as conversion and bounce rate. For example, Etam reported a 20 per cent increase in conversion following a 0.7 second cut in average load time.

There’s also a link between web performance and search engine optimisation (SEO). Google has for some time been using page speed as a ranking signal for search results, and a landing page’s load time affects the quality score for pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

Perhaps harder to pin down is the potential impact of load times on a brand.

Slow, unresponsive web pages can give the impression that an organisation just doesn’t care about its customers. While it’s harder to measure this kind of impact than it is, say, the effect on conversion, some organisations do just that. For example, at NCC Group’s recent web performance event, Andrew Neilson from Marks & Spencer showed how faster web pages delivered measurable improvements in customer satisfaction.

Recognising that performance matters is an important first step, but it’s also one that can highlight limitations within marketing departments. Taking an interest in a website’s speed means touching on areas that traditionally fall outside of the marketer’s remit. While other digital marketing disciplines, such as SEO, have to some extent brought marketers closer to the code that makes up a web page, delving into web performance takes this a step further. For example, it can require a deeper understanding of how third-party tags are implemented or of the impact of features such as slide shows and social media feeds.

That said, marketers can only be expected to go so far. Even if they learn all the technical detail, they might not have the access they need to make all changes they want. This means that web performance can be a great catalyst to improve collaboration between departments – marketers might be best placed to understand how far they need to improve performance, but IT might be best placed to deliver it (a gap that we’ve helped to bridge in some of our own performance consultancy engagements).

Ultimately, once they do understand how web performance is affecting the bottom line, marketers are perfectly placed to convince the rest of the business to invest the time, money and other resources into making their site faster.

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