You probably already know website speed is important. In fact, that phrase has probably been repeated so many times it’s all but lost its meaning.
Still, page load time is important. To you, your shoppers, and Google.
That’s one of the reasons Google provides PageSpeed Tools, which, like most tools Google creates, has become the de-facto day-to-day measure for website speed.
So let’s talk PageSpeed, and why it matters for your dealership website. Starting with why page load speed itself is so essential…
Speed and Your Site
Site speed is a ranking factor. Now, sure, it’s one of many, but with how much speed matters for user experience, this is a ranking factor that dealerships can’t afford to ignore.
Faster sites rank better. That’s the bottom line. If you’ve found that your site has been slipping in the rankings, your page load time is one of the first things to check.
But first, there’s a bit more involved with site speed and ranking to be aware of. Namely, the recent switch to Mobile-First indexing.
Briefly, “indexing” is how Google’s algorithm gathers content. Mobile-first indexing is best explained when compared to desktop-first.
“Crawling” is the process of reviewing and analyzing the content of a web page. Desktop-first (on the right) indexing used the desktop version of a site as the default basis for determining the page rank.
A mobile-first approach crawls the mobile site first and uses this as the default system for gathering information on the site.
The reason mobile-first indexing matters so much is that it makes your mobile website (speed very much included) more important than your desktop site. Many dealerships are still sluggish on mobile, which means potentially big problems for their PageSpeed score, and inevitably, site ranking.
Page Speed and Performance
Now, what impact does page load time have on your website performance? Well, you can have the most gorgeous website in the world, but if it’s slow to load, your potential shoppers won’t bother with it.
In fact, Google reports some pretty interesting statistics about your website’s performance, most importantly, that a one second delay in mobile website load time can decrease your mobile conversion rate by up to 20%.
Now, this is particularly pertinent to the automotive world. Why? Well, unfortunately, many automotive dealership websites are on the larger side — and when it comes to speed, smaller is better.
Here’s the average page weight per industry:
The bottom line — slow page load speed hurts your bottom line. Dealerships are losing money with slow sites. Now, there’s some good news among the bad. Heavy sites mean a lot of room for improvement (and the subsequent bump to your bottom line).
We’ve covered all the basics of load speed for your dealership website, so let’s launch into Google PageSpeed itself.
PageSpeed — Evaluate For Yourself
PageSpeed Insights is a useful tool for exploring your website speed. Quickly plug in your URL and get an analysis of your current page speed performance, and quick fixes for site speed optimization.
Here’s what a site test looks like:
The report shows your FCP and DCL load times — the two most important measures for your site’s load time. Also in the report is how the site compares to the rest of the internet, and how well the page is already optimized. In this case, the page in question is already in the recommended 3 seconds, and has a 99/100 page speed — meaning very little optimization is needed.
Below this are the actual recommendations and list of optimizations:
We’ll go into optimizations and fixes in the next section. For the moment, keep in mind that Google tests in 4G, while the vast majority of shoppers in the United States are browsing at LTE speeds. Still, this is a valuable tool.
Want to check your mobile site against your competition? Try out Google’s handy mobile speed scorecard.
Dealership Website Improvements for PageSpeed
Alright. If you’ve analyzed your website’s loading speed with PageSpeed insights, the easy part is over. Now what’s next is the optimization. Google has their own recommendations, and those are excellent to follow, but it can be and Here are some of the best ways to optimize your site and remove the worst speed offenders.
Fix #1: Compress Dealership Website Images
This is often the number one recommendation for improving page speed, and with good reason. Large images are often uploaded to a site, forgotten about, and left to drag down the loading times. Fixing these large images can provide an immediate boost to the loading time of a page with minimal effort.
This is automatically done on Jazel sites with WordPress Smush — one of the most widely used image optimization plugins on the web, or a variety of online image optimization tools, like CompressJPG.
Still, even if you’re using one of these plugins of third-party tools, some images may not be optimized. That’s usually okay. A few larger images here and there are fine. If a few images are all Google reports to fix, there may be better places to focus on.
One of these is your website’s actual code, which we’ll get into right now:
Fix #2: Minify Your Dealership Website Code
This gets a little technical, but it all boils down to one basic problem: Lots of code = heavy pages. Heavy pages = slow sites.
This can be mitigated or outright solved by minifying your code. Minification is the process of removing unnecessary or duplicated data on your site. This should be done without any impact on your site’s performance.
Fix #3: Implement AMP for Your Dealership Website
AMP is one of the — both from us, and the experts at Google. These pages help get your most important dealership pages to your shoppers faster and better than ever before.
Because AMP page content is cached with Google, the system also allows shoppers to switch seamlessly back and forth between results, no annoying load time in between the SRP and the information car shoppers are actually looking for. Naturally, AMP pages are highly recommended by Google.
At Jazel, we offer a really cool solution called Rocket Pages — automatic creation of AMP-capable pages for your dealership’s VDPs and Hours and Directions pages.
These pages allow your shoppers to access the information they’re looking for almost instantly, eliminating. Now, to be fair, implementing AMP pages don’t improve your actual site’s speed, however, they do bring your content to the top of the SRP and provide it at nearly instant speeds — which is just as good (if not better).
Here’s another fix for slow loading pages with poor PageSpeed scores:
Fix #4: Beware Third-Party Plug-ins
Dealerships websites are plagued by third-party plugins. Alright, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But the plague of pop-ups has serious consequences.
Despite the exaggeration, all too often, it seems like two or three different offers, chats, and pop-ups interrupt the online experience before it even begins. What’s more annoying than an irrelevant floating pop-up blocking the view of the car you’re actually interested in?
Worse, these pop-ups seriously slow down your site, particularly on mobile. With extraneous code, sluggish design, and non-optimized experiences, these pop-ups can seriously add to your page load speed.
It comes down to a simple question: Why weigh down your page for something that prioritizes semi-annoying lead generation, rather than actual user experience?
Fix #5: Improve Your User Experience
Want to make your site faster? One of the best recommendations we have is to find ways to improve your user experience.
Maybe you have too many elements on your home page, or your search result pages take too long to load (check out infinite scrolling). Chances are, the same elements, either technical or design, that are frustrating your shoppers are often slowing down your site on the side.
Remember, the shopper’s experience is directly tied up with site speed. Making improvements to your site that make shoppers happy should also bring down the load-time of your dealership’s website.
Congratulations! Now you’ve got the tools, and more importantly, the details and know-how for optimizing your website for the best possible PageSpeed score.
Sure, PageSpeed score is just one metric among many, and man, if feels like there are a lot of those to pay attention to these days (check out our article on what you should be tracking)
Between making the smaller technical fixes and focusing fully on your shopper experience, your site speed, and Google PageSpeed score, will benefit, and the direct effects of that are passed along to your dealership’s bottom line.