How does the server location affect your page load speed?

How does the server location affect your page load speed?

Every online store needs a server that is physically located somewhere. One of the most common option is to use an inexpensive shared web hosting plan. In addition to this shared web environment, you can use a virtual private server or if you run a WooCommerce website, a WordPress-optimized service.

In this blog post, we will explain how the server location affects the page load speed and the importance of the load speed for an online store.

Faster load time increases online sales

According to researches, the page load time for an e-commerce site is directly related to conversion and immediate bounce rate. Although the difference of one or two second in the load time may quickly seem small, it can be surprisingly important.

For example, according to a research done by Google, the immediate bounce rate will increase significantly after the first three seconds. So therefore, the online store should load completely within three seconds.

Similar results can be found in Akamai's research, which found that 53 % of visits to mobile sites would end if the site was loading for more than three seconds. The best results for conversions were found on sites that loaded completely in 0.9 - 1.4 seconds. After three seconds, the conversion percentage dropped sharply, especially on mobile devices.  

References:  

Google’s research from 2017 

Akamai’s research from 2017 (Downloading the free report requires to submit your contact information)

A good web hosting service speeds up your site

The web hosting industry is extensive and there are a lot of different options to choose from. Not only there are several providers and price ranges, there are also several geographical locations you might have your website physically located on. But how does the location and the chosen service provider affect your page load speed?   

Choosing a service provider has great impact as a fast server improves user experience from the customer's point of view. On the other hand, cheap and poor web hosting can slow down the site, weaken search engine visibility, and thus negatively affect conversion and e-commerce sales.

The page load speed is influenced by number of things. For example, by the technologies used, server resources, the number of simultaneous visitors and the amount of data to be loaded. However, one important factor affecting the page load speed is also the location of the server.

The geographic location of the server

Nowadays network connections are fast, allowing sites and online stores to quickly load even if they are located on a different continent. On the other hand, due to the speeding up of network connections, customers usually expect really fast load times.

How does location affect speed?

The geographic location of the server directly affects the load time of the online store. The farther the server is from the customer, the slower the site loads.

This is because the visitor's browser is sending hundreds of requests to the server. Although the load speed of a single request between locations would be very small, they multiply quickly causing an easily detectable delay.

How do I choose a server location?

First of all, you should consider the customer's point of view. Where does your customers come from or / and where is the audience you want to target?

By answering these questions, you should already have a good idea where your server should be located. For example, if most of your e-commerce customers are Finns, the server should naturally be located in Finland. If your target audience is in the US, it is best to have a server there. There are also ways to serve visitors from all around the world, we will come back to that little later.

Note that by having a server abroad does not mean that you must compromise from getting customer service in Finnish. Finnish service providers can also provide you with servers pretty much from all corners of Earth.  

Don’t try to save from the wrong place

It may seem like an attractive solution to cut costs and take the cheapest possible web host, even if the provided server is located on the other side of the globe. As we discussed before, wrong choice can slow down the site and cripple your conversion.  

Although a premium service might cost a bit more, it can actually increase your sales and therefore pay back itself.

Globally selling Online Stores

The situation with globally selling online stores is not that simple. If you start thinking about where your customers come from, they might come for example from Finland, Germany and Canada and since you probably will take on several other target areas as well, it may be challenging to decide where the server should be physically located.

Fortunately, there are various solutions that enables global online stores to operate without long page load times. For instance, you can utilize a service that has several distributed servers for different locations or a content delivery network.

Distributed servers

It is possible that the online store is distributed on several different servers, which are located on different continents. For example, if your target audiences are the Nordic countries and the United States, your online store could be distributed in both Finland and the US, enabling the fastest possible loading time for both locations.

The biggest and the most popular online stores are always distributed across multiple servers, because the boundaries of an individual server can easily be met, and decentralization also prevents many possible problem situations.

Content Delivery Network  

Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a geographically distributed network of proxy servers. They are used to provide requested web pages quickly to visitors. In practice, they aim to reduce delay caused by the geographical location.

What the CDN does is that it stores static resources, such as files and metadata used by the online store, in its own cache. This makes it unnecessary to retrieve all the information from the original server, since some of it can be provided directly from the cache, which speeds up the site from the user's perspective.

All global sites benefit from the use of CDN. For example, product images and they layout of a website load much faster with it. However, all dynamic content must still be retrieved from the original server.  

Check the location of your web server

It is good to remember that the server is not the only factor that affects the page load speed and you should also fix other things that affect it. However, the server functions as the basis for e-commerce, so always pay attention to its selection. The most affordable and far away is not always the best solution. Now is a good time to check where your web server is located and whether it needs to be changed.

Written by Joonas Vanhatapio
Joonas works as a WordPress Business Lead at Zoner Oy

Zoner is a Finnish hosting company with over 15,000 satisfied customers. You can quickly get domains, WordPress-optimized servers, web hosting services, and emails from Zoner's website: https://www.zoner.fi.