If you pay attention to the world of technology and digital marketing, you’d know that anytime an internet giant like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc talks about updating their platform, people take notice. Last week, Facebook said via its Business News Page that they will start to “prioritize” (i.e., limit) advertising space available to businesses based on how “mobile-friendly” the advertiser’s website is. That’s big news. Small to medium-sized businesses ought to take note, and here’s why.
A website that takes too long to load is prone to be skipped over. It sounds harsh, but that’s the truth, isn’t it? If someone using Facebook on their smartphone is waiting too long for a website to load — even if they tapped an advertisement due to interest — the chances are pretty high that they’ll simply swipe back to Facebook and continue browsing, rather than continue staring at a blank loading screen.
How Long is Too Long?
Five seconds? Fifteen? A minute? Well, according to the Aberdeen Group (a research & analytics company), 40% of all website visitors will jump ship after only 3 seconds of loading time. For advertisers, of course, that means they have a short window of time to deliver on their promise of an enticing offer (new socks, vintage AC/DC vinyl, yoga classes, whatever you’re into…) and keep their potential customers on the hook. But all kinds of businesses are affected by this development. While it’s no surprise that a slow-loading website will always get less traffic, the fact of the matter is that anyone trying to market themselves (or their products) on the internet has to come face to face with the advent of mobile browsing. We talk about this a lot in the automotive industry, but it’s applicable to everyone.
As of 2016, a little over half of internet traffic has gone mobile. That is, more than 50% of people browsing/shopping/researching things online are doing it through a mobile device. If you want proof, just take note of how many people are on their phones when you’re running errands. Some of them are probably price-checking and searching for better deals, too.
When it comes to making a good digital impression on your customers, your business’s website has a lot to live up to, whether you realize it or not. Actually, when you think about it, industry titans like Google and Facebook have set the digital bar quite high for all the rest of us. While it may be obvious to you that your company’s website isn’t going to be as speedy as Google, for example, your customers are now accustomed to that brand of quickness. When a site doesn’t load quickly enough — and the invisible hand seems to have settled at about 3 seconds — people tend to lose patience and click away.
Optimize with Mobile in Mind
Facebook allows businesses to run advertisements in their News Feed, in hopes that a potential customer will tap or click on it whilst browsing. Now, we won’t talk about targeted ads and mobile advertising techniques here, but we’ve done it before, here and here. What business owners ought to be focusing on is how quickly their websites are loading and how optimized their sites are for the mobile platform.
Now for a bit of technical information. How does Facebook know whether your site is mobile-friendly when you’re bidding for ad space?
They’re using a “prefetching” tool to determine what ads to show their customers. Essentially, Facebook is able to preload a basic HTML version of your site and store some data locally so that if someone decides to tap on your ad, the site loads much more quickly. Cool, right? The downside is that it’s also a measuring stick to determine which sites make the cut. If Facebook “prefetches” your site and decides it’s too slow, then guess who just got replaced at the party by the faster-loading websites?
Just going by the math, it doesn’t make any sense to spend money on social media advertising, then lose those customers because your company’s website didn’t load fast enough. And since Facebook is always downwind from zeitgeist farm, they’re being proactive by populating their News Feed with only the good stuff, that is, fast-loading sites. In other words, Facebook knows people are impatient, and it won’t keep them waiting. Normally, of course, it’s a good thing when companies like Facebook have their ear to the ground and are able to adjust their customers’ experience to meet expectations.
But the staggering reality is that an estimated 40% of small businesses in America don’t have a mobile-friendly site. So what to do? Well, fortunately, there’s no shortage of knowledge out there about mobile website development, if you know where to look. However, if you ask us, a lot of issues like this one creep up because small businesses don’t even know about them until it’s too late. Just ask your favorite pizza shop who does their website, or quiz your father-in-law’s accounting firm on their CTR and conversion metrics. Odds are, they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. And to an extent, that’s okay. There’s no reason an accountant ought be an SEO pro, but there’s really no reason they can’t know as much as a pro. And that’s why this blog (and others like it) exist.
So what exactly does optimizing for mobile mean? Well, when your website is being displayed on a desktop, there’s plenty of room for all your graphics, drop-down menu items, and even things like pop-up videos and such. But a mobile screen is much smaller, and it doesn’t need all the bells and whistles. In the website design & marketing biz, here’s what you need to know:
- Your site ought to be responsive & adaptive, which is fancy tech-talk for being able to scale down to the right format. Plus, not all features of your desktop need to be on the mobile platform, since somebody price-checking your product while waiting in line at the grocery store probably doesn’t want to watch a video or start a chat.
- You should use compressed files to decrease the rendering time when converting to mobile. Remember, if Keanu Reeves has taught us anything, “Speed” is the name of the game.
- You should definitely clean up things like landing pages so that they’re accessible to customers, and so there aren’t a lot of page redirects.
- Consider using the Facebook Pages service to boost your company.
- Take advantage of Facebook’s Canvas tool, which is already mobile-ready.
If you’re really in the mood for some learning, and don’t mind being called a super-genius, take a look at Google’s AMP Project, which uses the same kind of “prefetching” technology to cut down on website load times. It’s open source and super interesting.
But, hey, we’re not the only nerds on the internet. If you’ve got an interesting story about Facebook advertising, or you figured out how to get a better ROI on your social media ads, let us know!