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Milliseconds Make Money: The Shopify site speed, conversion, and SEO ranking overview.

How much more evidence do we need to dedicate ourselves to page speed and engagement performance?

Everyone seems to agree how important page speed optimization is, yet I’m still surprised how difficult it is to get Shopify brands to change their behavior, apps, and tools in order to make proactive page speed improvements.

*For Shopify apps specifically, if you are not already considering my apps for your Shopify product reviews (Rapid Reviews) and search (Search X), you are missing out. Rapid Reviews and Search X are the fastest and most performance oriented apps you can install, bar none.

Let’s Build The Simple Case For Page Speed & Engagement Improvement

There is a great deal of commentary around the web related to page speed, conversion, and SEO. The methodologies of the many links and references to page speed are, at times, questionable. Despite some questionable methodologies, we do not want to do is problematize studies to the point of limiting our page speed progress. We want to inspire our teams to improve! Let’s build an updated and concise case for Shopify page speed improvement.

High Level Understanding

Simply put, as page speed improves (i.e. page load/render times decrease), the following things happen across the board:

  • Visitor trust, good will, and satisfaction increase
  • Bounce rate decreases (how many people exit very near to when the page finishes loading)
  • Visitor engagement and clicks increase
  • Page views increase
  • ‘Add to carts’ increase
  • Conversion increases
  • SEO rank improves
  • Ad cost decreases
As page speed improves…

Page Speed Improves Brand Trust

For future customers, how they feel interacting with your brand over time is as important as anything discussed in this post. Visitors feel more satisfied and confident using faster pages.

Faster Pages Reduce Advertising Costs

Many companies are struggling to manage online advertising costs. Security changes on many devices are causing massive attribution problems with reporting and transparency on the ad networks. This has become even worse with iOS14 changes.

Companies must now dig deeper to optimize other parts of their operation that influence ad costs. Page speed should be at the top of the list for influencing ad costs.

The effects of page speed on advertising cost will vary based on your ad network. At a minimum, poor page speed performance will drive costs up through higher bounce rate and lower time on page—which naturally result in lower overall engagement and lower conversion rate.

Google’s ad network evaluates landing page experience as a weighting factor for quality score, thus affecting CPC (cost per click).

In either the simple case, or the Google Ads case, there is a strong financial incentive to improve page speed.

Product Reviews — 2–5X Your Conversion With Engagement And Quantity — Not Just Existence

Product reviews impact our page conversion as a function of (# of reviews on the page, combined with engagement & interaction). This is to say, having a good number of product reviews on our Shopify pages massively improves our conversion rate. Then, for the visitors that interact with our reviews (click, scroll, & search), it will cause another massive increase in purchase conversion rate!

**Try out my Shopify product reviews app, Rapid Reviews, it’s the fastest!

Product reviews conversion

Improve Just A Fraction Of A Second

I could share with you 10 links that claim monstrous conversion % gains related to page speed. You’ve probably already seen all the common links. Let’s think smaller. Targeting smaller page speed improvements is more actionable (and more fun for developers).

We don’t need to shave off entire seconds of page load time every time we work on page speed and performance. Even just 0.1 second (100 milliseconds) can help! If we shave 0.3 seconds, 0.4, 0.1, and 0.1, that adds up to our entire second of improvement.

The study below claims that just a single 0.1 second improvement to page speed can cause an 8% improvement in your purchase conversion rate and a 9% improvement in add to cart behavior. *Disclaimer: I must say that having reviewed the provided documentation for this study, I have serious questions about methodology and controls, but I love the sentiment: Even 0.1 second improvement is worth it! With that I agree completely. Every millisecond matters! The more traffic our e-commerce store gets, the more these millisecond improvements will add up to make a difference in revenue over time.

Source: Deloitte

Search — Improve Your Conversion 2.5-5X With Engagement — Not Just Existence

Let’s consider a common scenario with many e-commerce sites:

  • we have a search feature on our site
  • yet we don’t promote it
  • and using the search feature is not a very helpful experience.

In the above case, very few visitors use our site search, either because of low confidence, poor visibility, and so on.

Let’s contrast this with a pursuit of search excellence. If we provide a highly visible, fast, and engaging search interface, we can improve improve conversion for visitors who interact with our site search by up to 5X.

Internal data from my Shopify search app, Search X, shows an increase in purchase conversion by 2.5–5X for visitors who engage and search using the Search X widgets.

Very surprisingly, even searches that return no results can cause a conversion increase of 75%. What a great outcome!

Source: Search X

Page Speed Affects Organic Search Rank

We can always make a confident claim that “Content Is King.” We also know that engagement is heavily considered when it comes to page ranking. Google reiterates both of these points often.

In addition to content and engagement, we know that page speed can and will affect Google Search ranking. The final extent to which page speed affects rank is difficult to measure and hard to study. Google explicitly says that page speed affects rankings, but will not say by how much. Google also does not publicize the weightings of different page speed measures. This is understandable, as ranking comes from a matrix of influence from over 100 components of a page.

Take a look at this study where three identical sites were created targeting the same keywords. The three sites had page speed scores of 100 out of 100 points, 50/100, and 20/100. The fastest site crushed the others in organic search ranking.

Another study here shows a 20% speed difference between Google organic rank position #1 and #6. Obviously this infers a page speed and ranking relationship outside of content analysis, but this study shows a very noticeable difference between first page position in Google.

Shopify Performance Improvement Checklist

With Shopify development we are somewhat limited to page speed performance improvements. Despite these limitations, there is no excuse for poor page speed. We can still build a smoking fast e-commerce store.

Ask yourself, “do I really need that 15th Shopify app to be installed?” Your collection of apps may be killing your page speed.

What about that Javascript library that your developer used? It may save a bit of time, but it may also be nuking your page speed.

Here is an actionable list to improve your Shopify page speed:

  • Remove unused Shopify apps (most apps inject slow scripts into your site)
  • Remove slow Shopify apps (and pressure them to get their payloads down and make their apps load faster)
  • Install my product reviews and search apps. They are the fastest!
  • Properly compress your images before uploading to Shopify (see my accredited class to learn more about image formats, resolution, aspect ratio, and compression)
  • Switch to a performance oriented Shopify theme with fewer animations and smaller javascript files
  • Remove/replace slow Javascript libraries and widgets (libraries like jQuery, Vue, elements like media galleries, carousels, and slide shows)
  • Follow Google’s suggestions on PageSpeed Insights (screenshots below)—these suggestions are usually excellent

Check out my Shopify apps. Follow me on Twitter. Find me on LinkedIn.




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William Belk

William Belk


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