For mobile, slow and steady won’t cut it: study

A new Google study found that when it comes to mobile sites, there's a cost to latency - and one of the biggest culprits may be the ads themselves.
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It’s a mobile world — and only the fast survive.

That’s according to a new study by DoubleClick, Google’s ad management division for publishers and small businesses. The study, which was based on the analysis of more than 10,000 mobile web domains from around the world, was an attempt to gain insight into consumer behaviour on mobile sites and find correlations between load time for web pages and revenue.

The finding? There’s a direct correlation between the speed of a site and how friendly it is to advertisers.

Mobile sites that load in five seconds or less earn about twice as much mobile ad revenue than sites that load in 19 seconds. Mladen Raickovic, head of partnerships at Google Canada, told MiC this is the result of more time being spent on a page. Ads on faster-loading sites tend to see 25% higher viewability.

The reason for this? Raickovic explained that because not all site elements load at once, many users may give up and leave having only read or looked at part of the site. When all images, text and other elements are quick to load, that results in more engagement.

“It drives and demonstrates to publishers why they should be focusing on user experiences,” said Raickovic.

But many sites fail to hit that five-second load time. And that, Raickovic said, is due to a bit too much mobile baggage. Three quarters of sites studied took 10 seconds or more to load.

Load times were especially low on 3G connections (as opposed to the much faster 4G and LTE connections), where the average load time was 19 seconds.

Since a publisher can’t help what kind of connection its site loads on, Raickovic said the sites should look at shedding some of their bulk and take a more minimalist approach.

“Publishers need to flag and remove anything that adds latency.”

The average mobile site DoubleClick looked at was 1.5 megabytes. More heavyweight elements like large photo and video files and media players, as well as some traffic measurement tools, all contribute to weighing sites down.

“The more server requests a site is making, the more it disrupts the flow of the user experience,” said Raickovic. “Quick loads allow the user to be more engaged in the content as well as the ads.”

Nearly half of mobile server requests are ad-related, meaning publishers also need to work to integrate ads in a cleaner way with potentially smaller files.

Other stats found by the survey:

  • 53% of mobile users are likely to abandon a page if it takes longer than three seconds to load;
  • 46% of people say that waiting for pages to load is what they dislike most when using mobile web browsers; and
  • The average ad unit is 816 kilobytes, which takes about four seconds to load on a 3G connection.

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