The last thing you need on an information superhighway is a traffic jam

It has been 20 years since the Google founders published their famous paper that formed the basis of the PageRank algorithm which quite literally changed the world of information as we knew it then. It is worth noting that 1998 was only 5 years after the release of Mosaic, the web browser that popularized the World Wide Web – as people used to call it then. Netscape, the more memorable of the early browsers that ushered in the internet age, was only released in 1994. One of the expressions used at the time was “the information superhighway.” It all sounded very exciting and full of promise.

However, the reality was that a lot PCs at the time were clunky machines with monitors that looked like TVs did in 1980s. It is fair to say that if the average millennial was forced to use one of these computers, the #MeToo movement would be the name of a support group for people disadvantaged in life by slow download speeds. I remember trying to download an image to put on the cover page of one of my assignments and watching it load line by line on the screen. It may have been an information superhighway but it had an almost fatal traffic problem.

It is a truism that consumer expectations expand along with technology and it is also true that satisfaction is relative to expectation. When today’s users press the play icon on a YouTube clip sent by a friend and it doesn’t load immediately, they are likely to react as if someone had unplugged their fridge. Not acceptable. The load speed that is.  

Last week I watched Google’s marketing innovations keynote to learn about its latest product announcements. One of the things that really stood out for me was the statistic that approximately 50% of all web traffic is on mobile devices and that a similar percentage of smartphone users would not make a purchase on a mobile site if it takes too long to load. How long is too long? Well 40% of users abandon sites that take longer than 3 seconds to load. And the load speed stakes get higher when you consider that mobile conversion rates drop by between 0.5 and 2 percentage points for every second added to landing page load speeds between 1 and 4 seconds.

Historically, optimising for speed hasn’t always been a priority for businesses. This is understandable because many businesses don’t have an easy way to gauge their website’s landing page load times or how this impacts conversion metrics. Having recently expanded my agency’s consultancy arm into the Analytics 360 space, I was intrigued to learn about the new ‘Mobile landing page speed score’ column in AdWords. This new feature dovetails well with the range of load time metrics in Google Analytics and strikes me as a great example of the Google Marketing Platform’s attempt to integrate the optimisation of digital marketing campaigns by highlighting the key indicators of potential gains in ROI across the user journey from search to conversion.

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