Website Speed Reports for Insurance Agency Websites

Balancing Speed, User Experience, and Reporting

Help Center - Website Speed Reports for Insurance Agency Websites
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Is your insurance agency website fast?

Generally speaking, you want your website to load as quickly as possible. Not only does this create a great experience for website visitors, but it can also result in more leads, higher conversion rates, and increased time spent on your website.

But how can you tell if your website is fast, slow, or somewhere in between? Automated speed reports are far from the only way to measure website speed. In fact, they are often misleading and don’t factor in what makes your website useful, engaging, and effective.

In this article, we’ll take a look at website speed, automated speed reports, and how to know if your insurance agency’s website is fast enough.

Understand what website speed means.

On the surface, it’s fairly simple. It’s how fast your website loads. But that’s not really the whole story. Website speed has implications on SEO, user perception, and how your site is set up. It’s certainly important, but perhaps not how you think.

Search engine optimization (SEO).

You’ve probably heard that website speed affects SEO. That makes sense because Google isn’t going to rank a site well and send people to it if it’s going to take forever to load. If your site is truly slow, search engines will push it down in the results.

Real world visitor experience.

Whether or not your visitors have an easy time using your site is extremely important. Clients and prospects have many options and they’re going to go where they have the best experience. If your site is slow and frustrates users, they’ll go elsewhere, regardless of how much they like the work you do otherwise.

When you read those two things, it reinforces the notion that your site needs to be lightning fast. But exactly how fast is fast? There are websites, plugins, and services that can test your site speed, and they’ll usually tell you it’s too slow, particularly when it comes to mobile performance. The average consumer, on the other hand, is not going to use these tools. They’ll visit the page and make a judgement based on how long they have to wait. Most users expect a page to load within two seconds, though research would tell you most pages take longer than that.

So, visit your page. Does it feel slow? Try an incognito window or a browser you don’t normally use so you can experience your site more like someone visiting it for the first time. Ask someone who is unlikely to have visited your website to try it as well. This should give you some idea of what the true user experience is.

  Visit your site from a new browser or incognito window to test the site speed for yourself.

Mobile speed vs. desktop speed.

Mobile speed and desktop speed are not calculated the same way on most reports. Reporting software typically uses average connection speeds globally. So, if your insurance agency is located in the United States, Canada, or other region where high-speed mobile connections are prevalent, chances are your website visitors are experiencing very fast load times, regardless of what the numbers on your website report indicate. In other words, the numbers in the reports could be skewed due to slower connections across the world.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while mobile visitors are increasing, most insurance agencies still see more visitors coming to their website using a desktop computer as opposed to a mobile device. This further illustrates the point that user experience must be considered rather than blindly following reports and trends.

What could slow your site pages down?

While we’ve taken care thus far to point out that your site might not be as slow as you think, there is of course the chance that it really is not as fast as it could be. One thing to note is that websites as a whole aren’t slow. Rather, there may be certain pages within your site that are. Google looks at pages individually, so you should, too.

Before we look at a few common things that can slow site pages down, we do want to make clear that these statements below are generalizations. If your website is built on the ActiveAgency website platform, we’ve taken steps to address these concerns and use best practices in designing your site. However, sites built elsewhere may not have the features we do, resulting in a slower page. Now, let’s get to a few of those common issues that relate to speed.

Homepage.

Given that most website visitors go to the homepage first, it’s important to have as much helpful information, graphics, and content as possible on this page. This could slow down the page slightly according to speed reports, but the functionality and utility of the page is more important. In other words, you could strip the page down to almost nothing to get a better score on a report, but you’d be making the page far less useful and effective. Of course, that’s not ideal nor is it recommended.

Also, keep in mind that most speed reports are run solely against the homepage, not the entire website as a whole. As a result, speed reports simply don’t provide a wholistic, accurate view of all pages across your website.

Uncompressed, non-optimized pictures and video.

A website without any pictures or video would be pretty boring. Also, these elements, particularly video, can be very effective in getting information to clients and prospects. However, they can also significantly slow your site down if they aren’t correctly compressed and optimized for fast load times.

Other stylistic and functional elements.

There are a number other useful tools that can impact site speed including tracking scripts such as those for Google and Facebook, live chat code, and more. Stylistic elements such as fonts can also affect speed. We find that most often, the risk is worth the reward, meaning though load time could be a few fractions of a second slower, the user experience is greatly enhanced with these features. Without them, a page may load faster but it’s far less interesting and useful. It’s a trade off, to be sure, but one most site visitors will appreciate.

About that speed report you got.

There are many services that claim to check website speed. You may also find that organizations you’re a part of will provide reports to you as well. So, when you have a speed report in hand and it doesn’t look so hot, what do you do? The answer may surprise you. But, before we can give you that, we have to address some things about reports in general.

Many sites get bad reports.

It’s unlikely that there is a perfect site anywhere. And there are so many variables when it comes to speed testing that you shouldn’t immediately worry. This isn’t to say you should ignore it altogether, but you definitely need to take it with a grain of salt.

Consider the source.

Some reports just aren’t that reliable. They may not take into consideration all the factors that could contribute to your site’s speed, resulting in a poor report. Also, if the report is generated by someone who is trying to sell you a service to help you have a faster site, their intentions may not be completely honorable.

Location matters.

The United States, Canada, and other regions have widespread, high-speed internet. That means that sites load faster in these countries than in others. However, as mentioned above, some reporting software uses global averages when calculating scores, meaning that you could be seeing a result that isn’t relevant to your location and website visitors.

Page caching is important.

Page caching has to do with how a web page is remembered for future visitors. When one person visits a site, the page is remembered on a server so that when the next person comes along, the site loads quicker. If your site isn’t set up for this or the report provider doesn’t account for caching, the results may vary.

DIY testing could result in user error.

If you’re running your own test, there’s always a chance you’re not doing it correctly. Maybe you’re not using a reputable tool. Or perhaps there’s a configuration that’s off but you’re not aware of it. Did you test multiple times? Did you test from the correct location? It’s easy to pop your URL into a tool and get a result, but if you don’t understand the nitty-gritty of it all, you may be overlooking something important.

Some reports look at more than speed.

Some insurance carriers and other organizations might provide you with a report that offers feedback on things besides speed. This could include a profile you have with them, your social media presence, or your directory listings such as Google and Yelp. They may also provide an overall score based on all these factors combined somehow. Note that these other categories do not affect your site speed, even if they’re on the same report. If you’re not on any social media, for example, and that’s bringing an overall score down, you’d need to address social media specifically, not necessarily speed. We address how to prioritize these other concerns in our resource, The Forge3 Baby Steps.

  Take speed reports, especially unsolicited ones, with a grain of salt.

Comparing speed reports.

As we mentioned previously, there are many different tools that can be used to check website speed and some are certainly more reliable than others. Two of the more common and more reputable tools are Lighthouse and Google Pagespeed Insights. We tested the homepage speeds of four well known insurance brands, Allstate, Geico, Lemonade, and Zebra, on both Lighthouse and Pagespeed Insights. The reports were all taken within minutes of each other, so time of day is not a factor.

Take a look at the graph below. The first thing you might notice is that the highest overall score is 86 out of 100. For a company like Geico, who perhaps has the deepest pockets of all these brands, you would think they’d have a very fast site. If we were to give grades, they’d get a B from Lighthouse and barely earn a C on Pagespeed Insights. It’s simply not as impressive as you’d guess.

Speed report snapshot.

Website Speed Reports for Insurance Agency Websites - Comparing Large Insurance Companies Website Speed

There are a few other things that stand out. You would think speed should be something that can be measured fairly scientifically, so there shouldn’t be a huge discrepancy between the two tools when looking at the same site. You’ll notice there’s a substantial 39-point difference for Allstate between the two tools. Also, the differences between the two tools should be relatively consistent, but while Allstate has that 39-point difference, Lemonade only has an 8-point difference. And finally, these four sites don’t rank in the same order for speed on each tool. How can a site be fastest on one tool and not on the other?

The best conclusion we can draw from these tests is that not only does there appear to be no consistency between sites or tools, no one, not even a heavy hitter like Geico, can score better than a B. And with each site taking less than three seconds to load when we visited them, you could hardly consider any of them slow from a user’s perspective. At the end of the day, even the best tools don’t always produce the most reliable results. And if everyone is getting a middle-of-the-road score, how much does that score matter?

  Real world examples indicate that speed site scores are not always reliable.

ActiveAgency is designed to address speed.

First and foremost, speed should be about user experience over reports. Reports can be a useful tool, but as we mentioned, the sun doesn’t rise and set upon them. If your overall user experience is telling you that your site is running fast enough, it probably is. It’s like the old adage says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

If your website is running on the ActiveAgency website platform, you should be in a good position for speed because we design the platform with speed in mind. ActiveAgency includes tools and features that help give you, your clients, and your prospects the best performance possible. Let’s take a look at some of them.

CDN (content delivery network).

Simply put, CDN stores site resources like stylesheets, scripts, and images on a series of servers throughout the world so it will load those resources from the server closest to the site visitor’s location.

Smush.

This is a fun name for a very useful tool. Smush loads a compressed version of images on a website so it takes less time to load them.

Lazy loading.

This tool is used for images and Google maps. Lazy loading waits to load images until a user scrolls to them instead of when the page itself loads, cutting down on the initial load time.

Code minification.

This one is a little technical. Code minification removes unnecessary blank spaces and shortens longer words in code to cut down on the file size.

Page cache.

We mentioned this a bit earlier. The page cache stores a copy of the page on the server so that future visitors can view it without it having to be re-rendered.

We know that speed is important, so we are always looking for new ways to improve it. We consistently incorporate best practices when it comes to web design, SEO, and other considerations to bring your website visitors the best user experience possible. The truth is, what makes a page fastest might hurt SEO. The most innovative tools for a premium user experience could slow a page down. What we strive for is a balance between all these touch points rather than leaning too heavily in any one direction so a website owner and visitors get the best of all possible worlds.

  ActiveAgency includes tools and features to optimize website speed and overall performance.

Back to that bad website speed report.

Now that we’ve walked through all that, the question still remains: What should you do with a bad speed report? We’re going to answer that question with a question and ask, “Why do you care?”

That may sound flip, but as we pointed out, these reports aren’t really all that reliable and user experience is a better barometer of your site’s performance. If you rely on reports and numbers to measure success, that’s okay, and you may want to take steps to increase your speed. Otherwise, we’d suggest a shift in your mindset from one that focuses solely on reports like these to one that evaluates site performance differently.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as an option.

If you do want to increase your speed, we have an option available. Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, is an opt-in solution to consider. Earlier, we mentioned that low speed scores are usually on account of the mobile speed. AMP addresses this by streamlining the mobile page for a faster load. If you’re interested in AMP for your insurance agency website, reach out and we’d be happy to discuss it with you.

  AMP improves mobile speed, but sacrifices some features.

Perception is reality.

For those using the ActiveAgency website platform, you already have a website built with incredible sales and servicing tools, while at the same time balancing speed and performance. It’s the sweet spot. Ultimately, user experience should mean more than a speed report that may or may not accurately reflect page load times. When it comes down to it, if you feel like your site is fast enough and your clients do too, then it is!

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