If a company website loads slowly, especially on mobile, that firm could soon lose out on referral traffic from Facebook. On Wednesday, the social media giant announced that it was changing the algorithm for its News Feed to prioritize web pages that load quickly.
The news was announced in an official Facebook blog post, penned by engineers Jiayi Wen and Shengbo Guo. In the post, the pair wrote that frustrated users had complained of clicking on links to be directed to slow-loading pages. Additionally, up to 40% of visitors abandon a site if it doesn't load within three seconds, the post noted.
"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," the post said.
SEE: Facebook Advertising for Beginners (TechRepublic Academy)
Once the update rolls out, Facebook will begin to take into account the estimated load time of a webpage that a user clicks on from the News Feed in the company's mobile app. Network connection will also be accounted for, the post said. If it seems that a page will load more quickly, it will be given higher priority in the feed.
The update will be a continuation of steps that Facebook has taken in the past to match the right content to the right connection and device. For example, users with slow connections will likely be shown fewer videos or updates that include links, the post said. Facebook has also been prefetching data to help shorten load times as well.
The update will take a few months to roll out completely. While some pages won't see any change at all, the post said, "Webpages that are particularly slow could see decreases in referral traffic."
In order to not miss out on referral traffic from Facebook, business leaders should meet with their web development team to discuss a strategy to optimize page load time. Consider the number of plugins and third-party services a website utilizes, along with the number of ad calls a site makes and the type of ads it is serving. All of these factors influence load time.
The same Facebook engineers who wrote the original post also shared a separate post detailing some tips and tricks that businesses can use to improve their load time. Some of the suggestions offered were utilizing multi-region hosting, compressing files, removing redundant data, and using asynchronous scripts.
Facebook's move follows a similar one made by Google in early 2016. With the continued importance that SEO and social media will play in the success of a business's web presence, it is critical that organizations take the appropriate steps to speed up their web page load times.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Facebook will soon prioritize web pages that load faster when clicked on through the News Feed in its mobile app.
- The update will take a few months to fully roll out, but could limit referral traffic to websites that load slowly.
- Business leaders should meet with their web development teams to discuss a strategy for optimizing page load time, in order to not miss out on referral traffic.
- Facebook's Automated Insights wants to give you an AI-powered team of virtual data scientists (TechRepublic)
- Facebook News Feed update will prioritize fast loading web pages (ZDNet)
- Workplace by Facebook: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- Facebook expands ad options in Messenger (ZDNet)
- Why Facebook could be where you find your next tech job (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.