Google +1, Facebook Like, and other plug-ins increase a website's load time. What's a marketer to do?
Download speed matters. A one-second delay could result in 7 percent fewer conversions, 11 percent fewer page views, or even a 16 percent decrease in customer satisfaction. Over the last 15 years, I've told that to clients and it's been confirmed by third-party research. So if speed affects business results, then why would you add a second to a page's load time?
The Google +1 button and the Facebook Like button add over one second of load time to your page, according to a recent research study by TagMan, a tag management and acceleration company. Of course, visitors clicking on +1s will impact rankings. That's why you'll want to add the code to your website.
To complicate things further, Google for years has been telling anyone who will listen that website speed is as an important factor in determining rankings. "One of the 10 things we hold to be true here at Google is that fast is better than slow. We keep speed in mind in all things that we do, and the +1 button is no exception," according to a post published this week on Google's Webmaster Central Blog.
It's not just buttons. There are many other things affecting load times on your website. It doesn't matter if you are an e-commerce website, a major publisher, blogger, or a straightforward lead generation site. Site speed increasingly has an impact on your business, especially as the share of mobile traffic increases as a percent of visitors to your website.
Several influential people (SEOs and marketing execs) have shared with me that getting load time under the two-second load time mark, as Google recommends, has improved rankings significantly. So it's bewildering that nearly half (49 percent) of the top 500 online retailers have page-load times exceeding three seconds, according to Internet Retailer.
So how do you get your site and these plug-ins to load faster?
First, ensure that your organization is tracking and caring about site speed.
Google Analytics offers the ability to track actual site load times directly into Google Analytics. However, few sites add the simple line of code that enables them to add the data into their analytics report. All that needs to be done is:
Where you have your Google Analytics code (most probably in your header file), insert the code
_gaq.push(['_trackPageLoadTime']); under the line _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);
If your Google Analytics code is in the footer you are most likely slowing your performance as Google Analytics released new code optimized to run asynchronously.
You can also use external tools to measure individual page load time. My favorites include:
a. The Web Page Speed report, developed by Andy King, a friend and author of Website Optimization (you should own a copy). This calculates the speed based on all the objects referenced on your page and provides you results and recommendations as well.
b. Yahoo's YSlow plugin: This will be essential if you want to check out more dynamic pages.
c. Google's own Page Speed plug-in.
d. Loads.In: This tool lets you see actual load times from various locations and with different browsers.
e. WebPagetest: An open source tool that provides detailed waterfall charts to identify third-party performance issues
There are many things you can do to optimize your web pages and this list is far from exhaustive but it should get you started.
When you get your report from one of the page speed tools above, copy the list of all the images and paste the urls into Smush.It (for bloggers there is even a WordPress plug-in version). Of course it would be better if you could also minimize the number of graphics called and use the right graphic format for the type of images. Also be advised of Flash load time issues.
Optimizing Your Code
To speed up HTML you can make sure your code validates, minimize the amount of code and stay away from tables and iframes if possible. You should also enable gzip compression. Of course this can be handle as part of the W3 Total Cache Wordpress plug-in. You can also leverage a content delivery network (CDN) like Akamai or Amazon cloud services to speed up your pages. A content delivery network is a system of servers placed strategically around the world which host many of your site's files. Here is a fantastic walk through for every blogger on how to use the W3 Total Cache plug-in and Amazon's free S3 CDN.
You should obsess over how long it takes your cart and checkout pages to load. How long it takes tools to return search results, or key functionality. There are so many more opportunities to optimize your page speed.
For some additional tips check out the Yahoo Developer Network's best practices and make sure to read through the Website Optimization book for more technical enhancements.
If you don't have the time or resources to get your code optimized, you can install a hardware appliance available from several companies that can optimize your code for your website or mobile application or website in real-time using the above techniques and more.
How fast can you make your pages go?
Want to learn more?
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Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.
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