Relying on Published Web Performance Benchmarks Is Not Enough: 3 Key Considerations
Test and Monitor | Posted August 09, 2012

Have you heard the one about two campers and a bear?

Two campers are walking through the forest when they suddenly encounter a grizzly bear.

The bear rears up on his hind legs and lets out a terrifying roar.

Both campers are instantly frozen in their tracks.

The first camper whispers, "I'm sure glad I wore my running shoes today."

"It doesn't matter what kind of shoes you're wearing, you're not gonna outrun that bear," replies the second.

"I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun YOU," he answers.

Companies can employ a similar strategy when selecting the right website performance benchmark. Winning is not about beating the biggest, baddest company in your industry. It’s about staying in front of your customer.

Start with Industry Benchmarks

Sure, it is intuitively obvious why you want your website to outperform your competitors’ - why it should stay up more of the time and load faster in users’ web browsers. You will attract more users, users will do more business with you, business will get done faster, and you will make more money.

That’s why industry web performance benchmarks exist — so companies can compare how their website performs compared to other prominent companies in their industry. SmartBear, for example, publishes web performance industry benchmarks for nine industries including retail, financial services, healthcare and technology. Data, presented in both chart and tabular form, shows what percent of the time each website is available and what the response time is, from DNS resolution to complete delivery of full-page content. The reported numbers reflect an average of data collected from multiple monitoring locations around the world over a week’s time.

shortening tools benchmarks

These benchmarks are thus an accurate and convenient look into how an industry's websites are performing. Experts using state-of-the-art tools to do the monitering for these benchmarks. Data is averaged across multiple companies, multiple locations and multiple days to ensure a very representative picture of how an industry is doing. Just looking at the benchmarks offers a clear picture of what a user in an industry might expect. Most companies would be hard pressed to do this level of monitoring on their own every week.

3 Considerations to Get Started With Your Own Performance Benchmarks

If you are really serious about competing online you can’t rely on published website performance benchmarks alone — not even SmartBear’s. You should also run your own benchmarks against your own competitors — the ones who are really chasing your customers.

1. Carefully Choose Whom You Compare Web Performance - Most companies do not compete head-to-head against industry leaders (as measured by revenue or market share). They compete against regional or niche players, which means they are all going after the same regional or niche customer. That’s your benchmark — whatever that particular customer expects. And the only way to find that out is to do your own monitoring against your specific competitors. You can even use the same distributed performance monitoring tools, and the same experts, that compile the major industry benchmarks.

2. Don’t Forget to Check the Web Analytics - Not only can you tailor your performance benchmarks to your specific customer, you can correlate performance data against Google analytics to show how both performance and content are impacting each other and traffic. For example, is your most popular content causing your website to underperform?

3. Benchmark API Performance Too - You should also consider API benchmarking to determine how well they perform against top competitors and also how your APIs perform against each other. As the number of APIs increase, the risk of API errors and performance issues also increases. API performance issues are a double whammy in that they create issue for the API and for any software into which they are integrated. 

Industry benchmarks are great; in fact, we recommend them highly. But in the race to capture web customers, the most important thing to know is who's chasing whom.

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