Take Note, Web Publishers: A Speedy Mobile Site Is the New Standard

For today’s mobile users, the speed of a brand’s mobile site is more important than ever. Sites need to be fast and relevant or frustrated users will leave in a matter of seconds. A new study by Google Marketing Platform analyzed more than 10,000 mobile web domains to see how speed impacts user engagement and publisher revenue—and found out that most mobile sites aren’t meeting users’ expectations.

Simply having a mobile site load successfully on our cell phones used to be considered a success. Much like flip phones and T9 texting, those days are long gone. Speed is the new standard. Google Marketing Platform’s1 recent study revealed that the average load time for mobile sites over 3G connections is 19 seconds.2 That’s about as long as it takes to sing the entire alphabet song!3

Not only does a slow-loading site frustrate mobile users, it also negatively affects publishers. A lot of factors affect revenue, but we found that publishers whose mobile sites load in under five seconds earn up to twice as much ad revenue as publishers whose sites load in 19 seconds.4 On top of that, sites that load in five seconds saw 25% higher ad viewability5 and average sessions lasting 70% longer6 than sites that load in 19 seconds.

"Publishers whose mobile sites load in <5 seconds earn up to 2X as much ad revenue as publishers whose sites load in 19 seconds."

The results were crystal clear: Mobile speed has never been more important.

Mobile users won’t wait much longer than 3… 2… 1… gone

Slow page load times are a huge turn-off for mobile users. Forty-six percent of people say that waiting for pages to load is what they dislike the most when browsing the web on mobile devices.7 And they won’t wait around for long: 53% of visits are likely to be abandoned if pages take longer than three seconds to load,8 while 50% of people expect a page to load in under two seconds.9

What’s a publisher to do? They can start by understanding the three major factors that slow down mobile sites: file size, the number of server requests, and the order in which different elements of the page are loaded.

The Google Marketing Platform study found that the average size of content on mobile sites is 1.49 MB, which takes seven seconds to load over 3G connections.10 Also, mobile pages make an average of 214 server requests, and nearly half of all server requests are ad-related.10

There can be a lot of different issues to sort through, but brands shouldn’t sweat it! There are plenty of tools out there to help diagnose and tackle any latency problems.

"Today, 71% of our traffic comes from the mobile web… We realized that we could significantly decrease bounce rate, increase engagement, and revenue by improving our page load time."

Publishers like The Central News Agency in Taiwan are taking note and working to adapt accordingly. "We want to offer our users the best experience on every screen,” said Hong-ann Wen, The Central News Agency’s deputy general manager of sales marketing center. “Today, 71% of our traffic comes from the mobile web. Working with our Google team and SalesFrontier Google Certified Publishing Partner, we realized that we could significantly decrease bounce rate, increase engagement, and revenue by improving our page load time.”

Tools to help improve your mobile experience

Consider this simple three-step process to improve your brand’s mobile site speed:

  1. Assess: Test your site’s current performance using tools like PageSpeed InsightsMobile-Friendly Test, and Web Page Test.
  2. Execute: Make changes that eliminate bulky content, reduce the number of server requests, and consolidate data and analytics tags. Switch up the element order and select the minimum number of pieces to show above the fold first. Page features like styling, Javascript logic, and images accessed after the first tap can be loaded later.
  3. Monitor: Keep an eye on the site’s performance after making changes and run A/B tests to regularly audit the setup of your site, flagging and removing anything that adds latency.

After taking similar steps to improve its site’s performance, The Central News Agency saw immediate results. Wen said, “Using tools like PageSpeed Insights, we successfully improved the performance of our website by minimizing the number of redirects and roundtrips. Now our mobile web site loads 32 seconds faster. We've seen bounce rates improve by 2%, and engagement with our content increase by 10%. Importantly, we’ve also seen a 52% increase in revenue and a 13% increase in ad viewability.”

To learn more about the steps you can take to improve users’ experience on your mobile site, check out Google Marketing Platform's guide, The Need for Mobile Speed.

Avoid Lag and Drag: Seven Common Reasons for Slow Mobile Page Speed