Understanding Site Speed in Google Analytics

You may have the most beautiful, user-friendly interface on the web, but you can still lose users with a slow site. In the same vein, you can have the best-written ads in a carefully crafted search campaign, while still losing users on a landing page.

According to a survey by KISSmetrics, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Thankfully, Google Analytics provides insight into site speed, including both aggregate site data and metrics for individual pages. Paying attention to site speed may help you diagnose problems such as low conversion rates and excessive shopping cart abandonment.

In this article, we’ll review how to view site speed data in Google Analytics and relate what you see to addressing common issues.

Site Speed Overview

You can view site speed data by navigating to Behavior > Site Speed within the main reporting view of Google Analytics. The Overview report shows aggregate statistics for metrics such as average page load time and server connection time, along with a section to view data by browser, country, or page.

Use a date comparison to see current data vs. a previous period. An exceptional drop in performance or spikes around select periods should lead you to investigate online or offline circumstances that may have contributed.

You may be able to correlate data from specific dates with events that happened on the business’s end. For instance, a holiday sale could have driven a high volume of traffic, or your web hosting provider could have gone down briefly. Annotations can help mark events outside of Analytics that could have affected metrics.

In addition, reviewing data by browser may help pinpoint trouble areas. For instance, you may find that Safari users experience significantly longer loading times than those in other browsers, spurring the need to investigate issues in the website’s code that may affect a particular browser.

Data by Page

The Page Timings report will break down performance by individual pages, allowing you to quickly identify pain points in your site. You may find that a popular page has a long load time, leading to users bouncing before taking action.

You’ll see a list of URLs, with metrics to the right correlating with each page. Use the dropdowns to change which metrics you see (for instance, instead of sorting by pageviews, you could sort by exit rate or bounce rate). You can also sort by average load time to see the best and worst pages on the site, quickly identifying pages to address. The next report can help point you to specific issues you should address.

Fixing Issues

The Site Speed Suggestions report scores pages and provides a link to view suggested edits for improving performance. Improvements can include compression of images, implementation of browser caching, and reduction of scripts to save file sizes. Of course, note that this is generalized data from Google’s review of your site, but it may help point you (or a developer, if you’re not code-savvy) in the right direction.

Here’s an example of what you’ll see by clicking the SiteSpeed Suggestions for any individual page. By selecting “Show how to fix” under any option, you’ll see details specific to your site (such as filenames for images that should be compressed).

Conclusion

If you haven’t yet reviewed site speed data, take a look at these reports in your Google Analytics account. Pinpoint data for key landing pages to see if any show concerning results. You may locate some surprising and revealing data! If necessary, look for improvements you can make.

How have you used site speed reports to inform improvements to your site or clients’ sites? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments (1)

  1. I have one of the main ‘eaters’ of site speed issues comes from the calls you make to third party services from various pixels you have on your site if you have them, such as Adroll when those have to load.

    You can often about double your total download time just by getting rid of them if you can I have found.

    Corey
    Guaranteed PPC

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