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Competitive Advantage in 250 Milliseconds

By | March 1, 2012

You don’t need to follow track and field to know who Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay are, and now you don’t need to work in Internet marketing to know about the importance of website speed for keeping visitor interest, thanks to today’s front-page story in The New York Times.

Track and field (or Internet marketing) insiders may already know that website speed has been written about before by Google and usability expert Jakob Nielsen, but one of the newest findings may surprise (via the Times story above):

“People will visit a Web site less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 milliseconds (a millisecond is a thousandth of a second).”

Our attraction to speedy websites may be subconscious, but the effect is no less powerful despite our lack of perception. Incidentally, 250 milliseconds is faster than the time it takes a 99-m.p.h. fastball to reach the plate, but actually slower than one beat of a dragonfly’s wings.

Implications of speed

Implications of  speed are seen all over; here’s a few examples:

  • General: If any Web page is deemed “bad,” people will leave it in a few seconds. If it’s good, they could stay a few minutes. The key is what they find in the first 10-20 seconds, which determines the probability of users speed-dating vs. having a cup of coffee.
  • Organic search: Google formally introduced site speed as a ranking factor in its algorithm two years ago.
  • Paid search: If your landing page doesn’t fire up quickly, impatient visitors will favor another, faster one.
  • Video: “4 out of 5 online users will click away if a video stalls while loading” (via the Times story above).
  • Email: E-newsletter subscribers might be suspicious of (or altogether ignore) links you put in emails if the pages they launch don’t load at the right speed. Your messages miss the mark they otherwise would have hit.
  • Mobile: Lack of speed in loading a mobile website can enrage smartphone and tablet users to the point of breaking things.
  • Web copy: Nobody’s reading very much of it.

In addition to weighing site speed in its search algorithm, Google also has published internal studies showing that visitors spend less time on less responsive sites and stated that having faster sites can also reduce operating costs. It even has a whole section of its coding site devoted to it.

Even back in 1997, when most people weren’t using high-speed Internet, speeds of under a second were paramount when moving from page to page (as Nielsen notes). A decade or two prior to that, IBM studies from the 1970s and 1980s showed greater productivity on mainframes when users experienced a sub-second lag time between a keystroke and the corresponding screen.

What does all this mean today?

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Go big or go home.” I say, “Go fast or lose customers.” How’s that for competitive advantage?

Keep your site lean and brisk … Vin Diesel and Keanu Reeves would be proud.

***

Image courtesy of Mark Fischer via Flickr.

You don’t need to follow track and field to know who Usain Bolt and Tyson
Gay are, and now you don’t need to work in Internet marketing to know
about the importance of website speed for keeping visitor interest,
thanks to today’s front-page New York Times story.
Track and field (or Internet marketing) insiders may already know that
website speed has been written about before by Google and usability
expert Jakob Nielsen, but some of the newest findings may surprise:
“People will visit a Web site less often if it is slower than a close
competitor by more than 250 milliseconds (a millisecond is a thousandth
of a second).”
Our attraction to speedy websites may be subconscious, but the effect is
no less powerful for us not even perceiving it.
Incidentally, 250 milliseconds is faster than the time it takes a
99-m.p.h. fastball to reach the plate, but actually slower than one beat
of a dragonfly’s wings.
There’s applications all over the place:
General: If any web page is bad, people will leave it in a few seconds.
If it’s good, they could stay a few minutes. The key is what they find in
the first 10-20 seconds,
[http://www.useit.com/alertbox/page-abandonment-time.html]
Organic search:
Video: “Four out of five online users will click away if a video stalls
while loading.”
Paid search: If your landing page doesn’t fire up quickly, impatient
visitors will favor another, faster one.
Email: E-newsletter subscribers might be suspicious of (or altogether
ignore) links you put in emails if the pages they launch don’t load at
the right speed. Your messages miss the mark they otherwise would have
hit.
Mobile: (link to Abby’s post) … *lack* of speed can even make some
people furious
Google formally introduced site speed as a ranking factor in its
algorithm two years ago. It also published internal studies showing that
visitors spend less time on less responsive sites and that having faster
sites can also reduce operating costs.
[http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2010/04/using-site-speed-in-w
eb-search-ranking.html]
It even has a whole section of its coding site devoted to it.
Even back in 1997, when most people weren’t using high-speed Internet,
speeds of under a second were paramount when moving from page to page. A
decade or two prior to that, IBM studies from the 1970s and 1980s showed
greater productivity on mainframes when users experienced a sub-second
lag time between a keystroke and the corresponding screen.
What does all this mean today?
You’ve probably heard the expression, “Go big or go home.” I say, “Go
fast or lose customers.” How’s that for competitive advantage? Make Vin
Diesel and Keanu Reeves proud.You don’t need to follow track and field to know who Usain Bolt and Tyson 

Gay are, and now you don’t need to work in Internet marketing to know

 

about the importance of website speed for keeping visitor interest,

 

thanks to today’s front-page New York Times story.

 

Track and field (or Internet marketing) insiders may already know that

 

website speed has been written about before by Google and usability

 

expert Jakob Nielsen, but some of the newest findings may surprise:

 

“People will visit a Web site less often if it is slower than a close

 

competitor by more than 250 milliseconds (a millisecond is a thousandth

 

of a second).”

 

Our attraction to speedy websites may be subconscious, but the effect is

 

no less powerful for us not even perceiving it.

 

Incidentally, 250 milliseconds is faster than the time it takes a

 

99-m.p.h. fastball to reach the plate, but actually slower than one beat

 

of a dragonfly’s wings.

 

There’s applications all over the place:

 

General: If any web page is bad, people will leave it in a few seconds.

 

If it’s good, they could stay a few minutes. The key is what they find in

 

the first 10-20 seconds,

 

[http://www.useit.com/alertbox/page-abandonment-time.html]

Organic search:

Video: “Four out of five online users will click away if a video stalls

 

while loading.”

Paid search: If your landing page doesn’t fire up quickly, impatient

 

visitors will favor another, faster one.

Email: E-newsletter subscribers might be suspicious of (or altogether

 

ignore) links you put in emails if the pages they launch don’t load at

 

the right speed. Your messages miss the mark they otherwise would have

 

hit.

Mobile: (link to Abby’s post) … *lack* of speed can even make some

 

people furious

 

Google formally introduced site speed as a ranking factor in its

 

algorithm two years ago. It also published internal studies showing that

 

visitors spend less time on less responsive sites and that having faster

 

sites can also reduce operating costs.

 

[http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2010/04/using-site-speed-in-w

 

eb-search-ranking.html]

It even has a whole section of its coding site devoted to it.

Even back in 1997, when most people weren’t using high-speed Internet,

 

speeds of under a second were paramount when moving from page to page. A

 

decade or two prior to that, IBM studies from the 1970s and 1980s showed

 

greater productivity on mainframes when users experienced a sub-second

 

lag time between a keystroke and the corresponding screen.

 

What does all this mean today?

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Go big or go home.” I say, “Go

 

fast or lose customers.” How’s that for competitive advantage? Make Vin

 

Diesel and Keanu Reeves proud.

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About Paul Richlovsky

Paul brings a writing and teaching background to his marketing career, where he's been happily active since 2006. After spending his early years serving clients as a Web copywriter and account manager, he currently leads Fathom's own content strategy in collaboration with sales, marketing and others across the company. He is an enthusiastic marketing automation practitioner and active member of the Cleveland Marketo User Group. He also serves as editorial director of Fathom's website and blog and has written/edited multiple guides on marketing, including for audiences in healthcare, higher education, financial services, retail and manufacturing. He previously was lead blogger and managing editor for YouShouldGoToSchool.com, a resource for individuals interested in career-focused education. With a BA in English from the College of Wooster, he is also the author of a collection of poetry, "Under the Lunar Neon." He is particularly interested in usability, readability, ballroom dancing, bachata, racquet sports, and romping with his niece/nephews.

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