As a Volusion consulting firm we continually get asked about their performance and quality of hosting. If you’ve been around Volusion enough (or any ecommerce platform such as 3dCart, Big Commerce, etc.) the topic of site speed eventually comes up. When Google announced that page speed is a factor in organic rankings, the queries really ramped up. If you’re a pay-per click advertiser, site speed is also a factor in your Adwords Quality Score.
With today’s short-attention-span user, if you cannot provide the best and fastest experience possible then your potential customer will find a website that will. With a potential of hundreds to thousands of pages in a typical ecommerce store, you need to find the bottlenecks that hurt and lower conversion rates. It is with this intent that Google has released the new Site Speed Report. This new report is only available with the new Google Analytics interface.
Why Page Speed Tracking is Important
With this new report you can answer questions such as:
- Which pages in my online store the slowest?
- What is the correlation between my conversion rate and page speed?
- How does page speed impact my bounce rate?
- Is one version of a browser slower than others?
Once you diagnose and identify the slowest pages you can begin to correct the issues. With our internal optimization service some of the typical culprits of slow pages we find are:
- Large, poorly optimized images;
- Inefficient and non-standard HTML;
- Category pages with too many displayed products per page;
The One Caveat
There is one negative aspect of tracking your site speed…the new tracking code will slightly slow down your site even more. The reason is that Google uses a tracking GIF file which adds to the overall size of your page and download to the website visitor. Due to this issue, the site speed code does not track the site speed of everyone who visits your site but only a sampling. Some SEOs have reported an approximate sampling rate of 2%. Therefore if your site does not have a good volume of traffic you may not be getting very reliable data for the report. I expect the sampling rate may eventually rise or even be a variable you can set.
How to Install the Site Speed Tracking Code
Depending on which Google Analytic tracking code version you’re using, all you have to do is add one method to your GA script:
If you’re using the recommended asynchronous version, your script should look like:
If you’re using the old, traditional version, then it will look similar to:
Once you’ve installed this code in your ecommerce template (which will allow every page in your store to be tracked), you should begin to see data after a few hours.
Using the Site Speed Report
The site speed report contains the following default metrics:
- Average Page Load Time – the average time, in seconds, it took that page to load;
- Pageviews – the number of page views within the specified date range;
- Page Load Sample – the number of pages used to determine the average page load time. In other words the sampling rate;
- Bounce Rate – the bounce rate for this page;
- % Exit – the percentage of visits that left your site from this page;
And your report may look something like:
It’s another great addition to the New Google Analytics!