One of the biggest causes of high bounce rates and low conversions is poor user experience - and quick page loads are essential for to improve.

Web users have become much savvier over the past decade, and they recognize good sites when they see them. That’s why it’s more important than ever before to avoid alienating leads and prospects with bad content marketing. Unwieldy design, confusing page navigation and poor information architecture can all raise bounce rates and keep customers from consuming even the best content, but an oft-overlooked element of site management is load time.

Marketing firm Portent released a study of ecommerce site load times and calculated how they affected revenue. It concluded, the most valuable web pages were those that loaded in less than a second. However, the most important takeaway might be about the timing sweet spot to optimize user experience. Sites that reduce page speed load time from eight to five seconds saw the greatest bumps in revenue.

User experience waits for no one

The concept of user experience (UX) is becoming much more important. Customers and prospects are much less likely to stick around long enough to consume content if a site doesn’t operate smoothly. And it isn’t just individuals who will brand a page unsuitable. Google’s crawlers will also downgrade a site’s quality rankings if pages take too long to load. As Brafton reported, Google’s Matt Cutts estimates 1 out of every 100 search results is affected by site load times. The implication is clear: If a site’s content doesn’t display quickly, it doesn’t matter how good its content is.

1 out of every 100 search results is affected by site load times. 

So what can brands do to make sure their web marketing efforts haven’t been futile? One option is to consider implementing a site-wide redesign. As outlined in our recent ebook, A marketer’s guide to UX: The ‘invisible’ elements that fuel success, updating the look, feel and navigation of a site can have a tremendous impact on traffic, bounce rates and conversions. It may seem like a monumental task, but the investment is almost always well worth it.

Businesses limited by technology and budget should still do what they can to improve important pages. Portent’s study determined there are certain pages that have a particularly large impact on overall revenue when they don’t load quickly enough. Homepages, checkout screens and login functions are the most frustrating for users and lead to the highest abandonment rates.

It’s also important to simply consider general page configuration. Pages might load slowly, but if it’s difficult to seamlessly click from one piece of content to another, that doubles users’ difficulty. It’s a good idea to conduct a site-wide audit and and draw an informal sitemap to get a sense of how visitors navigate. This can offer insights into why content isn’t being clicked or why high traffic hasn’t led to increased conversions.

Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.