Facebook will penalize slowly loading sites as it updates its News Feed algorithm to promote posts from modern, up-to-speed websites.
In other words, if your mobile website is old, doesn’t load quickly – three seconds max – you can forget about getting much reach on the Facebook thingy. And, let’s face it, if you’re trying to be a digital marketeer these days you can’t afford to be ignored by the Facebook thingy.
“During the coming months we’re making an update to News Feed to show people more stories that will load quickly on mobile and fewer stories that might take longer to load, so they can spend more time reading the stories they find relevant,” explained Facebook’s top engineers in an August 2 blog post.
As one might reasonably expect the slow-loader penalty is not across-the-board. Facebook promises the algo update will take into consideration slower internet speeds in some regions & systems as well as older, slower mobile devices. But the fact remains, slowly loading websites won’t be favored by the social behemoth.
“For years, we have taken many factors into account to make sure people quickly see relevant stories to them — including the type of device you’re on or the speed of your mobile network or wifi connection,” insists Facebook. “For example, if you are on a slower internet connection that won’t load videos, News Feed will show you fewer videos and more status updates and links. And to help load stories faster for people on slow or poor network connections, we prefetch stories by downloading mobile content before someone clicks a link, which we’ve seen can shorten load time for webpages by more than 25%.”
“Prefetch.” Facebook knows you’re going to click on a link before you know it? Wait…is “prefetch,” a word?
Facebook also promises the update will not affect Facebook Pages, only individual users’ News Feed on Pages and personal Profiles.
“Webpages that are particularly slow could see decreases in referral traffic,” insists FB. “To help webpages avoid experiencing potential decreases, we’re sharing tips to help site owners make their site faster and more mobile-friendly. See here for publisher best practices for improving mobile site load time.”
The Facebook guidelines for improving mobile load speeds are sound and fundamental and mention Google’s site for testing load speeds.
Google has focused over the last couple of years on helping website owners build and maintain good mobile sites. It’s Accelerated Mobile Pages program, AMP, has proven wildly successful.
The basic idea behind AMP, an open-source project, is to build web pages which load quickly on mobile devices, where most of us are searching out content these days. Speed – quickly loading web pages – is essential to the mobile environment, especially for digital marketeers who want to gain, not lose, audience.
“AMP’s new speed gains in Google Search are due to several key optimizations that we made to the Google AMP Cache, such as server-side rendering of AMP components, and reducing bandwidth usage from images by 50% without affecting the perceived quality,” explained Matt Ludwig, Google’s AMP Project marketing lead at the annual Google I/O gathering in May. “We also used a compression algorithm called Brotli that Google launched a couple years ago, resulting in a reduced document size by an additional 10% in supported browsers.”
The world’s largest website and blogging platform, WordPress, is fully onboard with AMP, as is China’s largest social network, Tencent Qzone, and the country’s third largest, Weibo. Google announced in March Baidu, Sogou and Yahoo Japan are linking to AMP pages from their Search results. Bing and Google, of course, have been on board for quite a while.