Zoompf's Web Performance Blog

Top Alexa Sites Averaging 9.5 Seconds Page Load Time

 Mark Isham on May 2, 2013. Category: Alexa Research

In our recent post, 5 common Causes of Slow Website Performance, we talked through some common performance optimization gaps that appeared in our recent analysis of the Alexa Top 1000 websites. Since so much interesting data came back from that exercise, we wanted to followup with some additional insights about the raw page load times themselves. As you can probably guess, the “news ain’t great”.



First the disclaimers: Page load time is more art than science. While we were careful with our methodology (described below) you should think of it as a rough survey of the landscape. Essentially what we did is set up a private WebPageTest server on a “Small” class Amazon EC2 Instance running in the US-East/Northern Virgina region. Originally we utilized several “Micro” instances, but the resulting page load times were highly variable. We then scanned the Alexa Top 10,000 websites (not a typo, we did 10k for this analysis vs 1k for the prior post) in a serial manner, capturing the median “Document Complete” time (when onload fires, e.g. when user can start interacting with the page) of 3 runs. Each run was a “first load” scenario, meaning client side caching was cleared prior to each load. Chrome was the browser used. No other load was running on the server.

Acknowledged limitations: scans were run day and night, so this does not account for differences in peak vs. off peak times. Additionally, all tests were from just one region (Northern Virginia), so geographic proximity was a factor. (although good use of CDNs can offset much of this).

So the results? Well, as we already spoiled in the title, the median page load time for the Alexa Top 10k came in at 9.5 seconds. You can see a full distribution in the following graph:


This is (unfortunately) inline with our expectations from our own prior research as well as other industry research citing averages in the 6-9 second range under diverse testing scenarios. Steve Souders from Google also posted research recent from the HTML5 Developer Conference showing page weights growing 24% y/y, which would indirectly corroborate expectations of slower observed times.

User experience expectations are for page loads of 2 seconds or less. Clearly these numbers show we still have our work cut out for us.

But it’s not all bad news. We found 243 sites with sub-second page load times, and a full 544 loading in 2 seconds or less.  Some noteworthy “honor roll” mentions of some well known brands:

Nice work guys!

Of course there is also a “wall of shame” on the flip side, but we won’t pick on anyone specific here. Instead we’ll just highlight of the top 10k sites, a full 1295 sites (13%) were loading in OVER 20 SECONDS. For these sites you are leaving REAL MONEY on the table through lost conversions, abandoned carts and poor user experience. You should consider performance optimization a TOP priority for your business.

If you want to see how your site stacks up, we highly recommend trying out the free WebPageTest tool. WPT does a great job showing you how your website is loading. If you’d like to know what specific performance problems you have which are making that website slow, try our free Zoompf Performance Scan at http://zoompf.com/free. Zoompf tests your website for over 400 performance issues.


    May 3, 2013 at 8:35 am

    What connection was used? I find it hard to believe that http://www.warnerbros.com loaded in 0.4 seconds – I just ran a test with Chrome and the default connection (cable) and it took over 8 seconds: http://www.webpagetest.org/result/130503_AW_16f47d4007470034527cf09cb625b7e5/1/details/

    Are you sure that some of the faster page loads weren’t errors?

    May 3, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Kind of surprised to see Warnerbros actually beating Google in page load time, especially considering that their website has a lot more content than Google!

    May 6, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Great blog right here! Also your website lots up very fast! What web host are you the use of? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I desire my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

    May 6, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Yogesh – yeah as mentioned in the post the scans ran day and night, so its possible warnerbros hit during an off-peak time. Its also possible they’ve changed their site around since the initial scan – commonly those with low scores were using a “lazy loading” technique to pull down content asynchronously via javascript after the document complete triggered, its possible that was happening there. I just retested it right now and am seeing a time around 8 seconds, which is obviously much worse then 0.4 seconds. If anything, though, this would just contribute to an even slower median page load time :-(

    May 8, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Hi Mark,

    what connection was used? Did you use WPT “DSL” connection type?



    May 13, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    Hi Peter, we used “Cable” running from an EC2 instance in the Northern Virginia availability region.

    April 4, 2014 at 2:50 am

    I have learn a few good stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how a lot attempt you put to make any such great informative web site.

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