The most informative website in the world won’t mean anything if it doesn’t load fast enough.
After you’ve put all that effort into creating your client’s content, optimal website performance is the only way to ensure it gets the traction it deserves.
It isn’t just about a visually appealing website or adding a couple of pretty pictures, though. Optimizing web performance puts user experience in the front seat, ensuring that site visitors get exactly what they’re looking for, when they’re looking for it.
Beyond user engagement, enhancing a site’s performance increases the chances of a high conversion rate and even a favorable brand perception.
It’s also a given that you’ll have limited control over some things (like Google algorithm updates). However, you don’t want your client to lose potential customers over website optimization issues that could have been rectified. After all, it’s easy to open another browser tab, find faster websites, and access information quickly.
That said, how should you go about tracking website performance? As an agency, you’ll want to go beyond surface-level insights and demonstrate the value you provide to clients.
Website performance metrics are often an overlooked part of the puzzle that is SERP success. Arguably, though, it’s one of the most important pieces.
To put it succinctly, optimal website performance matters because it:
Helps clients reach their overall website goals (e.g., climbing up on search engine results)
Ensures a great user experience, which increases the chances of high engagement and conversion rates down the road
Enhances brand perception by delivering a well-optimized, professional finish (in some cases, it’s the first touchpoint a customer has with your client’s brand!)
Perceived vs. Actual Website Performance
Before we get into the ins and outs of assessing your clients’ websites, it’s important to distinguish between perceived and actual website performance.
To help you understand this better, consider that:
Perceived website performance is relative to the user experience. In other words, it takes their subjective perception into account when using your client’s website.
For example, a site visitor may think there’s a fast page loading time simply because core website elements showed up quickly. In reality, the actual page loading time may have been significantly slower.
Actual website performance is based on measurable metrics that give a more concrete and accurate indication of how your client’s website is performing.
While both types of metrics are important, keep in mind that user experience should always remain at the forefront.
Perception matters, after all.
We understand that a website is often the first point of contact between a business and its potential customers, which is why we prioritize good design and user experience.
Sounds pretty similar to First Contentful Paint (FCP), right? There’s a key difference.
As the name suggests, FMP is how long it takes for the first meaningful content to display (i.e., whatever users actually want to view).
This value is often the same as First Contentful Paint (FCP) but varies based on your client’s website. For example, say a user has made it to your eCommerce client’s product page.
In this scenario, the product image and “Buy Now” button will hold more meaning than a non-responsive background image (more than likely, your client is probably more interested in prioritizing their conversion rate, too).
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In this scenario, you’ll want the First Meaningful Paint to be that product image, description, and CTA button (typically the content that renders above the fold on a product page), which provides the most value to the user and increases the chances of conversion success. A good FMP score is between 0 - 2 seconds.
This perceived performance metric is the time it takes for the largest piece of content to load on your client’s website (e.g., a video embed, image slideshow, text body).
It’s worth noting that LCP falls under Google’s Core Web Vitals, which means it directly impacts a website’s performance on Google search results.
It makes sense when you think about it. LCP is useful for a website visitor to gauge how long they’ll have to wait to access your client’s full website (which often determines whether they’ll stay or not).
CLS is a measure of how much your client’s website layout shifts while loading. In essence, it’s an assessment of the overall visual stability of your client’s website.
Similar to Largest Contentful Paint, CLS also falls in the Google Core Web Vitals bucket.
A website with a significant CLS score isn’t exactly user-centric–in fact, it may be visually confusing and a bit of an eyesore. As a benchmark, Google recommends a CLS score of no more than 0.1 for optimal user experience.
Wrapping up Google’s Core Web Vitals is First Input Delay (FID). This metric tracks the time between a user’s interaction with your client’s website (e.g., clicking on external links) and the browser responding to their action.
An ideal FID is no more than 100ms since you don’t want users initiating action and stalling for a significant time period.
As a quick recap of Google’s Core Web Vital benchmarks, here’s a summarized visual below.
6. Max First Potential Delay (Max FID)
As the term suggests, this metric refers to the highest possible FID (i.e., the predicted maximum delay between a user’s first input and the browser’s execution of that request).
According to the data above, a high Max FID (>300 milliseconds) indicates that users may find your client’s website unresponsive or slow. That means it’s definitely an area to improve if it shows up.
7. Page Load Time
This metric measures how long it takes for your client's website to fully render on a user's screen after their initial click.
A web page with a fast page load time may lead to decreased bounce rates, improved search rankings, and more interest from users.
In fact, a recent study found that users visit approximately 5.6 pages more with just a marginal improvement in page loading time. Plus, an enhanced user experience may lead to a longer average session duration and increased engagement.
TTI is the time it takes for your client’s website to become responsive to user interactions (e.g., getting a successful response after clicking a ‘Download’ button).
Interactivity is a no-brainer when it comes to the user experience. After all, you don’t want users to stumble across an interesting blog post or try to fulfill a conversion action only to realize they’re stuck in cyberspace.
As a rule of thumb, site owners should have TTI scores between 0 - 3.8 seconds.
11. First CPU Idle
First CPU Idle measures when website loading is idle enough that it becomes responsive to user input.
In other words, it means that the user’s CPU is no longer being used to perform resource-heavy tasks (such as processing third-party scripts).
A lower First Idle CPU score (around 0 - 4.7 seconds) means your client’s website is highly responsive and readily available for user interaction.
12. Total Page Size
This important metric measures the consolidated download size of any of your client’s web pages when downloaded in a user’s browser. This factors in items like images, script, and fonts.
Ideally, you’ll want your client’s website to have a total page size of 100KB or less, but this ideal is not always possible–especially for niche content or eCommerce where images are needed to engage the visitor.
In these cases, it’s not unusual to see pages that range from 200KB to 400KB. The important thing is to strike a balance between minimizing page size and maximizing user engagement. After all, you don’t want an unreasonable page size to result in a slow site speed or compromised conversion rate.
13. Number of HTTP Requests
When a user clicks on your client’s website, their browser will send out individual HTTP requests to the server.
These requests are directly tied to the loading of key website elements such as images, fonts, and HTML files (to name a few).
More requests may mean a higher page load time and a reduced user experience.
While the average number of HTTP requests is around 70, fewer requests mean enhanced website performance. Because of this, it’s best to have a minimal number of requests where possible.
7 Supplementary Engagement and Behavior Insights to Track
Designing a website with optimal loading times won’t mean much if there isn’t a deeper understanding of what type of content resonates.
Think about it–you can have amazing website performance metrics, but it won’t mean much if website visitors don’t even engage with your client’s content or perform conversion actions. Therefore, your agency must go a step further and present the entire picture to clients.
The only way to assess how what you are saying is perceived is by studying the reactions. Online, clicks, shares, and/or replies are the "facial expressions" and "words" that a person shares back that can tell you how well your conversation is going.
The last page a user visits before leaving your client’s website. An exit page with a high bounce rate may indicate that content optimization is needed (e.g., adding more headings)
How To Measure Website Performance Metrics With Tools
It’s nearly impossible to accurately track a website’s performance without some form of automation. Rummaging through too many page load testing tools just to understand what’s happening is time-consuming and anxiety-inducing.
The way metrics are laid out and displayed on AgencyAnalytics is much easier for the client to digest, as opposed to viewing them directly on an intricate platform like Google Analytics. It gets the point across without forcing the client to get too into the weeds.
Jessica Weiss, Director of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships at One Firefly
Here are three top dashboards that automate data retrieval and give you a better understanding of website performance.
1. Google Lighthouse
This handy tool helps you to assess website performance, gauge user experience, and identify any potential issues.
GTmetrix is a popular website audit tool that’s used to evaluate site speed, identify performance issues, and track historical changes.
In addition to page speed, this platform also lets you test web page performance by geographic region (including the US, Canada, and Australia), which is helpful if you’ve got clients with websites in multiple locations.
5. Solarwinds Pingdom Speed Test
Similarly, Solarwinds Pingdom Speed Test is another platform that delivers page speed insights across different regions (including the US, UK, and Japan).
There’s also a transaction monitoring feature that identifies workflow issues that could affect the overall website conversion rate.
Implementing Website Performance Metrics in Client Dashboards
Wondering how to get started with monitoring website performance metrics? It’s easy-peasy with a platform like AgencyAnalytics.
All you have to do is:
1. Integrate Your Data Sources
Head to your AgencyAnalytics account and click on “Integrations” on the right-hand menu.
Pick your desired integration, grant any requested permissions, and sync it to your AgencyAnalytics account.
2. Choose a Pre-Built Dashboard or Build Your Own
After successfully integrating your platforms, it’s time to automate those insights into a dashboard.
You’ve got a few options, such as:
Choosing a platform-specific dashboard (like the ones we’ve mentioned)
By providing us with access to real-time data and analytics, AgencyAnalytics helps us make informed, data-driven decisions about our clients' marketing campaigns, website performance, and other key metrics. This allows us to optimize our strategies and tactics more effectively, leading to better results for our clients and agency.
Use Website Performance Metrics To Assess the Big Picture
As we’ve outlined, monitoring website performance metrics identifies issues that prevent internet users from accessing what they need. After all, no one likes slow load times or any other significant delays.
Factoring engagement insights will also help you to address website-related issues (like a high bounce rate on landing pages or even marginal conversion rates). Knowledge is power, and doing your due diligence will steer your clients to success.
That said, consolidating all these metrics manually is time-consuming and headache-inducing. Instead of toggling between platforms, use AgencyAnalytics to automate data retrieval and filter those important metrics into intuitive, visual dashboards.
The response from our clients has been overwhelmingly positive, as they appreciate the convenience of having their Google Search Console, rankings, and Google Analytics data consolidated in one user-friendly interface. This eliminates the hassle of logging into multiple platforms and navigating through complex interfaces.