While the search engine optimizer's overreaction is understandable, it is not the way an ecommerce business owner should be thinking. Fast loading ecommerce websites were necessary far before Matt Cutts made his famous proclamation. Think about it: why does Google think it is important for a website to load faster? The answer is obvious: slow websites create a bad user experience. So why would you wait for Google to point that out to you?
I would go so far as to say that Google's job is to select the best websites for users. Your job is to be the best ecommerce website for users. So, why not just focus on presenting the right user experience, and let Google do its job.
What can you do to speed up your website? The complete list would be encyclopedic, so I am focusing on the top few ideas to give you the maximum bang for your buck.
1. Have Many Images, But Optimize ThemThere was a time when one could have advised you to have fewer images on your ecommerce website. Bandwidth is not as scarce today as it once was. And we know that images help you sell products on your website. So today I would not recommended avoiding images. But I would certainly recommend optimizing them. Two of the easiest types of optimizations are:
a) Lower the filesize of the images.
b) Ensure that you are using images with the correct dimensions, and resizing them using the "width" and "height" tags in html.
2. Code Your Website BetterIf you understand technology, here are some things you can do that are easy to implement, but make a lot of difference to your website speed:
b) Eliminate scripts that are really not required. Reduce the size of scripts and CSS that is required. Combine multiple files where possible. You may think that you cannot combine image files, but ask your technology person to combine images into "sprites." Combining files does not reduce the amount of data that needs to be transferred. But it does reduce the number of calls that need to be made to the server, and speeds thing along.
3. Get Your Website Settings RightHere is a quick and easy setting: use browser caching to your advantage. Most pages -- their text and images -- do not change frequently, if at all. So, you should set an extended cache expiry date. I know of people who set it for a full year.
4. Use Better Hosting and a Content Delivery NetworkThis one should be a no-brainer. If your servers are overloaded, or do not have enough memory, or enough processing power, then your website will be slow regardless of the amount of optimization. As a result, evaluate your hosting, and move to a better host if required.
While you are at it, consider moving some static objects to a content delivery network (CDN). This will reduce the load on your server, and also speed up the loading of objects such as scripts, images, and videos.
A fast loading website allows a customer to sail smoothly through your navigation. Think about it: among other objectives, you hope to harvest your customer's impulse buying behavior. Wouldn't you want the customer to be at your payment gateway before losing the impulse to buy?