The Impact of Server Response Time on Website Performance

A web server’s response time is the time it takes for the server to deliver the first piece of content once a request has been made for a webpage by a user’s browser or mobile app.

Web developers, administrators and content owners spend a substantial amount of their time trying to improve server response time. That’s because even a seemingly slight improvement or deterioration in response time has a tangible, real world impact ( learn more about Server Uptime Monitoring ).

Here’s a look at how response times can deeply impact website performance.

1.    User Expectations

Today’s internet users are addicted to browsing speed. The world wide web has come a long way from the days when most people relied on sluggish dial-up modems to get connected. In advanced economies, average internet speeds are breathtakingly high as telecommunications infrastructure has gradually ceased to be the bottleneck it once was.

It’s with this context that people who visit your website expect server response times to be near instantaneous. One study found that 2 in every 5 users will promptly abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. That’s a whole lot of potential sales gone down the drain.

If your server doesn’t respond as fast as your users anticipate, then your very reasons for establishing the website (such as lead conversion and growing subscribers to your email newsletter) are in jeopardy.

2.    Your Competitors Are Optimizing

Your website was created to serve your customers and that alone is reason enough to make sure its performance is above user expectations. However, your site or mobile app doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There are likely tens, hundreds or thousands of websites and mobile apps out there that provide a similar service as you do.

More importantly, many of your competitors are doing whatever they can to reduce their server response times. If users pick up a noticeable lag in how long it takes for your website to respond when compared to your competitors, they will have a strong incentive to take their presence and business elsewhere. Few will be willing to endure poor performance when there is a sea of better alternatives.

3.    Search Engine Ranking

Like the overwhelming majority of websites on the Internet today, there’s a strong likelihood that most traffic to your site will originate from search engines and especially Google. The higher up your website appears on search results, the more traffic you are bound to receive.

Google and other search engines employ sophisticated algorithms that evaluate web pages against a wide range of factors to determine which site should rank in what position for a specific search word.

For several years now, Google has considered response time and loading speed in its ranking algorithm. So if your server’s response times are slow, you can expect to be penalized in Google’s search results. That doesn’t augur well for your website’s objectives.

4.    Troubleshooting

Once your website goes live and is accessible to the wider public, it simultaneously becomes exposed to a wide range of dangers including hacking attacks, malware, file corruption and inadequate hardware capacity. Many of these problems are accompanied by deteriorating web server performance.

If you are already accustomed to slow server response times, you won’t realize that something isn’t right. Even end users who run into a slow website will assume that it’s just the usual sluggish response they are already accustomed to and therefore won’t bother raising the alarm. Ergo, optimizing server response times from the get-go makes it easier to pick up system problems almost immediately they occur.

The value of web server response time on your online presence and digital strategy cannot be overemphasized. Fortunately, if your server’s response is slower than it should be, there are steps you can take to get on the right track.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to optimization. It varies depending on the structure, purpose and target audience of your site. The important thing is to start working on it today and always be on the lookout for new ways you can better your response times and therefore performance.