Facebook punishes slow-loading mobile pages

Posted on August 7, 2017


Facebook has confirmed that it will bury web pages further into user feeds, depending on how long it takes for them to load from its mobile app.

Web sites that are not optimised for mobile use have long been a source of frustration for those who access the web on their phone or tablet, and at Engage Web, we’ve always preached that any website should be fine-tuned to meet their expectations. Now, Facebook has stepped into the fray by confirming an update to its algorithm that will calculate how long it takes for a web page to load. The longer this takes, the further down news feeds they will appear.

This means that sites not optimised for mobile use will see their reach diminish on Facebook, along with the traffic generated from the site.

The news was confirmed on August 2, in a blog post written by engineers Shengbo Guo and Jiayi Wen, which stated:

“Factors such as the person’s current network connection and the general speed of the corresponding web page will be considered. If signals indicate the web page will load quickly, the link to that web page might appear higher in your feed.”

This news shouldn’t come as a shock. Back in 2010, Google started using speed as a determining factor in its search ranking results, citing some interesting statistics about its impact on user behaviour. In a blog post from July 2009, Google spoke about an experiment where it purposefully slowed down its results:

“Our experiments demonstrate that slowing down the search results page by 100 to 400 milliseconds has a measurable impact on the number of searches per user of -0.2% to -0.6% (averaged over four or six weeks depending on the experiment). That’s 0.2% to 0.6% fewer searches for changes under half a second!”

At the time, the search engine cautioned against sacrificing original, relevant content for swift loading times, and Facebook has also provided a guide to best practices, which offers some pointers for sluggish websites.

However, the move could be seen as an attempt to push more companies into using Facebook’s new Instant Articles format, which enables them to publish rich content directly on the site with faster loading times.

So far, there is no further information, such as what factors will be used in estimating loading times. These may include the number of ads on a page, as well as video or picture content.

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