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2019 Is the Year of Page Speed. Are You Ready?

2019 is the Year of Page Speed

Page speed matters.

We’ve been hearing it for years, though any one of us would be forgiven for letting it slide.

There are other priorities, after all. Marketers have been busy ensuring content is GDPR compliant. We’ve installed SSL certificates, made sure that our pages are mobile-responsive, and conducted conversion optimization experiments.

Some of us have had kids to raise. (And others, dogs.)

But Google has been sending some serious signals lately that suggest sluggish loading is a problem you can no longer sleep on.

In fact, if we look at Google’s actions, it’s undeniable that 2019 will be the year of page speed, the year of the lightning bolt. It’s the year when the difference between fast and slow content becomes the difference between showing up in the search results (whether paid or organic) or disappearing completely.

If you’ve been putting off improvements to your landing page performance until now, chances are that slow content is already killing your conversions. But in 2019, slow content will kill your conversions… to death.

Not convinced? Let’s explore the evidence together.

Google has been saying speed matters since forever

One of the reasons marketers aren’t taking Google’s latest messaging about page speed as seriously as they should is that the company has been asking us to speed up for at least a decade.

Way back in June of 2009, Google launched its “Let’s make the web faster” initiative, which sought to realize co-founder Larry Page’s vision of “browsing the web as fast as turning the pages of a magazine.”

Let's make the web faster
“Let’s make the web faster” video posted on June 22, 2009 (via YouTube)

As part of this initiative, Google made a number of commitments, but they stressed that better speed wasn’t something they could achieve alone. On the same day, a post called “Speed Matters” on the Google AI blog contained a similar message:

Because the cost of slower performance increases over time and persists, we encourage site designers to think twice about adding a feature that hurts performance if the benefit of the feature is unproven.

These weren’t just empty words. The publication of the “Let’s make the web faster” and “Speed Matters” posts signaled a burst of activity from Google. This included:

  • making speed a ranking factor for desktop searches (2010)
  • releasing PageSpeed tools for Firefox (2009) and Chrome (2011)
  • adding the capacity to preload the first search result to Chrome (2011)

But that was nearly ten years ago, and Google followed it with… almost nothing.

Digital marketers and web devs thought they were safe to focus on other things.

Then, in February of 2017, Google returned to the subject of speed in a big way, publishing an industry benchmark report that’s been widely shared ever since.

You may have seen some of the results:

Mobile Page Speed Benchmark
Google’s benchmark revealed that as load times get longer, the probability of bounce increases significantly (via Think with Google).

The first version of the benchmark found that the average mobile landing page was taking 22 seconds to load. This average came down to 15.3 seconds in 2018, but it’s still a significant concern.

(If you’d like a visceral reminder of why a 15-second average wait is still a major problem, hold your breath for that long.)

While the core message that “speed matters” was the same in 2009, in the report Google was now warning that “consumers are more demanding than ever before. And marketers who are able to deliver fast, frictionless experiences will reap the benefits.”

The benchmark report sounded an alarm. And the 2018 update dialed up the volume: “Today it’s critical that marketers design fast web experiences across all industry sectors.”

Google and Page Speed: A Timeline

Much like “Let’s make the web faster,” the 2017 benchmark preceded a flurry of activity from Google, this time laser-focused on mobile page speeds. Here are a few of the more significant moments that should concern you:

May 2017:
Google introduces AMP landing pages to AdWords

This update to AdWords (now Google Ads) makes it possible for advertisers to point their mobile search ads to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), an ultra-light standard for web pages that is designed to load in less than a second on a mobile device. It’s the strongest indicator yet that Google wants you to get behind AMP in a big way.


June 2017 to February 2018:
Google makes its tools more insistent

In this period, performance tools like PageSpeed Insights and “Test My Site” began making more forceful claims about speed improvements. In February, Google even announced two new tools. The Mobile Speed Scorecard lets you measure your domain’s load time against up to ten of your competitors. And the Impact Calculator produces an estimate of the revenue impact you’d see by speeding up your site. (They’re done with being subtle.)


July 2018:
Google’s “Speed Update” drops

While speed has been a ranking factor in desktop search results since 2010, the “Speed Update” applies stronger standards to mobile searches. Alongside mobile-first indexing, this places renewed pressure on site creators to ensure their mobile landing page experiences are speedy and engaging.


July 2018:
Mobile Speed Score is added to Google Ads

Though Mobile Speed Score doesn’t (yet) have a direct impact on your cost-per-click (CPC), loading times already factor into your Quality Score because they determine landing page experience. By isolating mobile load times, Google Ads now makes it “easier to diagnose and improve your mobile site speed.” Hint, hint.

Google is making mobile page speed mandatory…

It’s not a drip, it’s a monsoon. Looking at the full timeline of announcements, launches, and product updates reveals that Google has been more active than in 2009—and that this initiative is ongoing. Take a look:

Google Page Speed Timeline
Want a better view of this timeline? Click above to open a larger version.

Since 2009, one of the ongoing arguments that Google has been making—through releasing tools and metrics like PageSpeed Insights, Lighthouse, “Test My Site,” the Speed Scorecard, Impact Calculator, and Mobile Speed Score—is that speed matters.

Since 2017, though, that argument has gotten much louder. And while no single action or announcement on this timeline should send you into a tizzy just yet, it’s worth remembering that Google’s gentle reminders tend to become more or less mandatory.

The search engine’s previous drips about mobile responsiveness or, say, web security both manifested in concrete changes to their browser and search engine that forced marketers to prioritize.

In 2016, for instance, you could have safely put SSL certification on your “nice-to-have” list because all Google promised was a small boost to encrypted sites in the search rankings. Nice, to have, but not critical. In 2018, Google Chrome began actively flagging non-HTTPS sites as “Not Secure.”

That’s how Google encourages change: first a carrot, then the stick.

…but what are marketers doing about it?

Unbounce wanted to know what, if anything, digital marketers are doing to meet Google’s new performance standards. So in the “Inside Unbounce” tent at this year’s Call to Action conference, we conducted an informal survey of attendees.

Participants could choose any landing page they wanted. (A majority of these participants weren’t Unbounce customers, but we were happy to measure pages created with our own builder as well.)

Together, we’d run the selected page through Google’s “Test My Site” tool and record the results.

An Inside Unbounce Attendee
An attendee uses “Test My Site” at CTAConf 2018. Unbounce wanted to know, how fast are you?

Our numbers beat the benchmark by a significant margin. That’s not shocking considering CTAConf is a digital marketing conference. The average load time was 10.27 seconds, five seconds faster than Google’s 2018 benchmark.

But it wasn’t all good news, and just how bad it got surprised us:

Only 1.6% of the 188 attendee landing pages we tested at CTAConf loaded in three seconds. Not a single one we tested loaded faster than that.

Ooof. That hurts, especially since Google says 53% of visitors bounce after three seconds.

This means even savvy marketers are not getting the opportunity to convert because a majority of prospects bounce before the content ever loads. Imagine stressing over the color of a button or the length of your headline copy only to discover most people who click on your ad will never even see the resulting landing page.

It’s no wonder, then, that Google is putting increased pressure on marketers to meet their standards in 2019. They can’t afford to be serving up a heaping spoonful of frustration with each search results. And neither can you.

Major players are already sprinting ahead

Even if Google weren’t forcing our hands, it’s hard to imagine a business that wouldn’t benefit from allocating resources to ensuring their website loads like lightning. Major web brands like Etsy and eBay have long been transparent about the importance of speed to their business, and many more companies are waking up to it.

TELUS, one of Canada’s largest telecommunication companies, committed to improving user experience across their web properties in a series of recent blog posts. According to the blog, this initiative to improve performance and speed is “aligned with what Google was really saying: Improving the customer experience is paramount.”

We reached out to Josh Arndt, Senior Technology Architect and Performance Program Lead at TELUS Digital, who explained why this move made a lot of sense:

Customers expect to be able to do what they want in a way that fits their life. While users come to our website for the content, speed – or lack of – may be the first point of friction in their digital journey. Our goal is to remove friction and make their experience effortless and rewarding. As such, performance and other web quality characteristics will always be on our roadmap.

TELUS recognizes that speed—or a lack of it—serves as the unofficial gatekeeper to their content. In this context, page speed is a natural priority, even if it’s one many of us have been collectively ignoring.

Our manifesto, or what page speed means to Unbounce

As the market leader in landing pages, Unbounce recognizes that being capable of extremely fast speeds represents a significant advantage for our clients. Turbo-charged landing pages result in more traffic and higher engagement, boosting conversions and helping PPC campaigns win increased ad impressions for less.

We’ve been happy to make it our priority into 2019. At the same time, though, we also want to remove some of the obstacles to building faster landing pages.

Technical challenges

Over the past few months, our developers have been optimizing Unbounce pages for the recommendations made by Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This bundle of technical improvements (we call it Speed Boost) automatically takes care of many of the technical details that can be a hurdle to improving performance, especially if development hours are tight or (let’s be realistic here) non-existent.

Speed versus beauty

Another sticking point when it comes to speeding up is that few marketers feel comfortable sacrificing visuals for faster load times. Image file sizes have increased to match the larger display resolutions and higher pixel density of modern mobile devices, one reason the average page size has doubled in the past three years.

With the addition of support for ultra-light SVG images and the recent integration of the free Unsplash image galleries right within the Unbounce builder, we’re helping marketers keep things looking slick without weighing down the landing page.

And we’re working toward creating even more optimization opportunities in the near future, including the Auto Image Optimizer, which automatically compresses the images on your landing pages. (You can decide how much or little compression you want.)

The result will be Cheetah speeds—no, scratch that, cheetah-with-a-rocket-strapped-to-its-back speeds—but without the need to sacrifice either visual allure or creative control.

We’ve taken the pressure off. Check out our plans and pricing for desktop and mobile landing pages that are always optimized with speed in mind. It guarantees a better user experience and less ad spend wasted on ads that don’t convert.

Unbounce + AMP Landing Pages

When it comes to improving page speeds on mobile devices, accelerated mobile pages (AMP) set the gold standard by offering load times that are typically much quicker on a 3G connection—and under a second on 4G.

AMP implementation also has a democratizing effect, which Facebook advertising expert Mari Smith points out:

If you wait too long to ensure speedy landing pages, your competitors will zoom right past you…It’s a total race right now. Specifically, with the pending issues around net neutrality, page speed could become far more important than it already is.

Considering that 70% of the world uses a 3G or slower connection—and that the repeal of net neutrality means more internet users in the US might find themselves in the slow lane—designing for older devices and slower connection speeds means connecting to more potential customers. AMP is a big plus in this regard, and that’s one reason publishers were among the first to adopt it.

But AMP can also be hard. As Unbounce’s Larissa Hildebrandt put it in a recent post, “the reason the AMP framework creates a fast page is because it is so restrictive.”

Implementing AMP typically involves learning the nuances of AMP’s specialized markup, including a restrictive version of HTML and a truncated JavaScript library. Pages are delivered the Google AMP Cache, a proxy-based CDN which helps them load even faster. And, all-in-all, to be validated requires closely following the strict design principles laid out by the AMP Project.

If all this sounds like a killer headache in the making, you’re right.

While Unbounce has been greatly interested in supporting AMP, we wanted to make sure it’s fast and easy for our customers to implement. So when Unbounce launches support for AMP landing pages in early 2019, you’ll be able to use our drag-and-drop builder to create AMP landing pages in no time.

We also didn’t want you to sacrifice creative control, so Unbounce allows the inclusion of AMP-compatible custom CSS, JavaScript, and HTML. As long as it passes validation, you can include it. Go nuts. We love how our community innovates on our platform.

Build an AMP page in Unbounce in our beta
Interested in seeing for yourself how AMP landing pages can accelerate your conversion rate? Join the waitlist for access to the private beta here. Explore how the builder makes creating AMP-ready pages quick and easy.

Speed up or disappear

No marketer can afford to ignore page speed in 2019. Mobile speeds can have a dramatic effect on paid advertising spend and your conversion rates, and Google’s actions so far show that the search engine is cracking down on the slow-to-load across all devices.

What does the future hold? I don’t pretend to have a crystal ball, but here are a few educated guesses:

  1. If mobile loading times don’t get much faster, then we can expect more pressure from Google. This could take the form of further changes to indexing or Google Ads, another round of benchmarks, or the addition of new features and tools.
  2. There’s a growing sense of urgency among marketers, and the major players are already moving to improve their loading times. Even if you’re in the small business space, these things tend to have a trickle-down effect. If you don’t work to improve your performance, chances are your competitors will.
  3. As development on AMP continues, the standard will gain new flexibility while maintaining optimal speeds. It’s already overcome early limitations, and it’s likely we’ll see adoption rates accelerate across all industries.

Since 2009, we’ve seen some remarkable developments in mobile technology, including widespread adoption of touchscreens, the rollout of 4G cellular capabilities, and voice-based search. But the web itself hasn’t always evolved to match—instead, it’s gotten slower and heavier. (Haven’t we all?)

In 2019, though, that will begin to change, for all of the reasons discussed above. The web will speed up and slim down, and those who don’t match the new paradigm will be left behind.

Thankfully, if 2019 is The Year of Page Speed, then you’ve still got opportunities to start speeding up in advance. Let us know your plans in the comments below.

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2019 Is the Year of Page Speed. Are You Ready?

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Google Mobile First Index 2018: A Simple Guide to Build your Strategy

what-is-mobile-first-index

Google’s mobile first index has created quite an upheaval in the marketing world — and for good reason. If Google is taking mobile websites more seriously, shouldn’t you? After all, if you want Google to serve up your content to searchers, you need to know how Google crawls and assesses your website. Otherwise, you fall behind the competition. But don’t panic. If you don’t have a mobile website ready to go now, you’re not doomed to haunt the 100th page of the Google SERPs forever. In fact, Google is slowly rolling out this new strategy, roping in more websites as…

The post Google Mobile First Index 2018: A Simple Guide to Build your Strategy appeared first on The Daily Egg.

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Google Mobile First Index 2018: A Simple Guide to Build your Strategy

How to Optimize Your Website for Google’s Mobile-First Index

We know that Google’s Mobile-First Index is coming. As is the norm with Google, we’re just not sure when. The latest reports from SMX Advanced in Seattle back in June saw Gary Illyes quoting early 2018 as the rollout date, but we can expect a fairly soft roll out on this one. It’s also likely that Google will be providing webmasters with a lot of guidance as this is a huge move with the potential to cause havoc to a lot of great websites if they get it wrong. With that timeline in mind, there are things you can be…

The post How to Optimize Your Website for Google’s Mobile-First Index appeared first on The Daily Egg.

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How to Optimize Your Website for Google’s Mobile-First Index

2017 eCommerce Conversion Rate Trends That Are Here to Stay

We have hardly seen through the first month of the year and the internet is already overwhelmed with the advice and trend pieces on eCommerce.

In this post, however, we specifically focus on those trends that can influence eCommerce conversion rates this year. It is important to keep a watch on such trends to keep ahead of the game.

Let’s read through what eCommerce experts are saying.

On-Site Search Optimization

Effective site search is well known for increasing website conversion rates. Weblink’s internal study for 2016 points out that shoppers who use internal site search converted at a 216% higher rate than those who do not.

Internal site search stats
Source

In 2014, Smashing Magazine benchmarked the search experience of the 50 top-grossing US e-commerce websites, revealing a lot of untapped potential:

  • 60% of e-commerce websites do not support searches with symbols and abbreviations.
  • While 82% websites have autocomplete suggestions, 36% of implementations do more harm than good.

According to Paul Rogers, 2017 will see more and more eCommerce businesses fix and optimize their on-site search in order to increase their conversion rates.

Paul Rogers, eCommerce consultant

I think an area of eCommerce that more and more merchants are starting to address, with a view to optimizing conversion metrics, is on-site search. Many of the clients I work with have upped their game in this area this year, making use of things like self-learning capabilities (via a third-party solution, supporting merchandising), natural language processing (to better understand more complex queries), product / category / attribute boosting and also promoting the use of the function.

In my experience, users who complete a search are considerably more likely to convert. I’ve seen positive results from making search boxes more prominent and more of a core navigation focus (through encouraging more complex queries like ‘search for product, SKU, brand or help’ for example). There are some really good, advanced solutions available for eCommerce stores now that can handle far more complex queries and drive more trade — I really like Klevu for the NLP and catalog enrichment side of things, but Algolia is very strong too.

Using a third-party solution is generally the best route for optimizing search, as the majority of the eCommerce platforms on the market (with the exception of enterprise systems like Oracle Commerce Cloud and IBM Websphere) have weak search technology, some of which are unable to process even the most simple queries.

Amazon Rise Continues

A survey conducted by BloomReach 2015 revealed that approximately half of the online consumers conduct their first product search on Amazon. The survey gives some interesting insights into how and why Amazon continues to dominate American e-commerce market year-on-year.

In fact, the percentage of people who search for a product first on Amazon has gone up from 30% in 2012 to 44% in 2015. Check the graph for numbers on first searches made on Amazon vs. search engines vs. retailer websites.

amazon search vs. search engine vs. retailers
Source

Andrew Youderian believes that the same trend will continue well into 2017 unless other players are able to build a brand connection with customers.

Andrew Youderian, eCommerce entrepreneur

I think many merchants in 2017—especially those in the U.S.—will see continued downward pressure on their website conversion rates due to Amazon. As Amazon continues to gobble up market share, they are increasingly becoming the go-to place for consumers looking to purchase online. Unless merchants are selling something unique or have a strong brand connection with their customers, it will be difficult to win this battle, and it’s a transition that many merchants haven’t yet made.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Chris Lake, co-founder of EmpiricalProof

The main trend for 2017 is the widespread maturing of the Conversion Rate Optimization industry. It is reminiscent of the usability and analytics industry a decade or so ago. Budgets are on the rise, companies are adopting a structured approach to optimization, and hiring in-house staff for the same.

Chris backs his statement with an interesting study by eConsultancy, according to which over half of companies plan to increase their conversion optimization budgets in 2017. The whole CRO industry will attract attention from the C-suite, he adds further.

CTA_evolution

Personalization

A survey conducted by eConsultancy in 2013 concluded that 94% of the in-house marketers consider website personalization to be critical to the success of the business. This popularity of personalization in eCommerce has grown over the years. Evergage combines extensive data on personalization in a stats roundup for 2016. The gist of the report is that consumers are likely to buy from a retailer that:

  • Recognizes them by name
  • Makes suggestions based on recent purchases
  • Knows the purchase history of their consumers

While a lot is being discussed on personalization since long, Tracey Wallace opines that 2017 is going to be the year of personalization.

Tracey Wallace, Editor in Chief at Bigcommerce

The eCommerce industry has been talking about personalization for a while, without much data or fruition. In 2017, I think personalization is going to be the key to more sales from your already existing customers –– i.e. driving up AOV and retention. With so many channels for customers to check out on (and most brands being at least multi if not omnichannel), what will make them checkout on *your* webstore? VIP programs, special discounts, and early access will help to foster loyalty and drive up repeat sales. Plus, you can use this same type of segmentation to sell B2B and wholesale without having to take every single call. 2017 will be about efficiency, and there’s nothing more efficient than getting people who have already purchased from you to buy again, and again, and again.

Mobile Optimization

Throughout the day, the one device that consumes most of our time is mobile. comScore reports that digital media time in the U.S. has exploded recently – growing nearly 50 percent in the past two years, with more than three-fourths of that growth directly attributable to the mobile app.

Since mobile plays a critical role in significantly increasing reach, awareness, and engagement, it is time that eCommerce players start giving it the due attention. Look at the following graph to see how mobile and tablet usage has been increasing over time.

mobile optimization
Mobile and tablet usage combined, beat desktop usage for the first time worldwide in 2016

Google has already shown its inclination towards mobile by announcing a “mobile-first” culture. As a result, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is being talked about a lot.

William Harris, Growth Marketer & Entrepreneur

One of the biggest trends in 2017 will be the growth of AMP. I tested this out with a few merchants on Shopify Plus when they were running the beta, and the results were impressive.

We know that stripping pages down to the necessary elements tends to increase conversion rates.  We know that faster load times tend to increase conversion rates.  So when you combine the both, it only makes sense that conversion rates will go up on mobile devices. Since mobile accounts for the majority of website traffic, that’s where the biggest increase in conversions will come in 2017.

Look to see more merchants adopting AMP and pushing the mobile conversion rate even higher (especially when AMP gets better and more flexible).”

Smarter Buy Buttons

The busy consumer is looking for smarter ways to shop. While he browses his mobile to make a mental to-buy list, he compares the best deals on a desktop for making an informed purchase.

For retailers, there lies an opportunity in this challenge. With the help of buy buttons, social commerce has enabled eCommerce players convert the buyer at the first point of contact – mobile, tablet, desktop, email, Facebook, Pinterest, or anywhere else.

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder of Retail Minded Magazine, says that buy buttons will be one of the major trends driving up conversion rates for eCommerce in 2017.

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder, Retail Minded Magazine

The buyer journey will always evolve and as a result, retailers must, as well. Among the ways I believe eCommerce, in particular, will see change in the year ahead is by the introduction of smart buy buttons. Such buy buttons do not need as many steps to purchase as they have in the past. This will undoubtedly help conversion rates, as well as connect consumers to brands more efficiently and more quickly than ever before. Through the introduction of buy buttons via social media, email, video platforms and other digital avenues, I believe that customers will be able to skip steps they have not been able to in the past. And, as a result, retailers will benefit with stronger sales and customer engagement.

To Wrap Up

Personalization, on-site optimization, the continuous rise of Amazon, conversion rate optimization, buy buttons—eCommerce businesses can use these trends to their advantage in 2017.

Have any of the trends listed above had any impact on your business? Tell us and our readers in the comments section below.

The post 2017 eCommerce Conversion Rate Trends That Are Here to Stay appeared first on VWO Blog.

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2017 eCommerce Conversion Rate Trends That Are Here to Stay

Web Development Reading List #126: Clever Interfaces, An Open AMP Alternative And The Art Of Slow Growth

It’s interesting to see how user experience design advances now that we managed to understand what it means. I think artificial intelligence will become a huge part of user experience over time and that we will spend more time on developing clever integrations to third parties than developing our own “dumb” interfaces. That’s why I find it interesting to see research on how services can use unified interfaces like text messaging apps to become more intelligent.

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Web Development Reading List #126: Clever Interfaces, An Open AMP Alternative And The Art Of Slow Growth

Turn Your AMP Up To 11: Everything You Need To Know About Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages


In May of 2015, Facebook unveiled its new in-app publishing platform, Instant Articles. A month later, Apple declared that the old Newsstand experience (essentially a fancy folder full of news apps) would be replaced in iOS 9 with a brand-new news aggregation and discovery platform called Apple News.

Turn Your AMP Up To 11: Everything You Need To Know About Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages

Four months later, it was Google’s turn to announce its own, somewhat belated but no less ambitious, plan to revolutionize mobile news consumption with an open-source web-based solution called Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP. In just a few months, we’ve seen the relative tranquility of mobile digital publishing erupt into yet another full-scale platform war as Facebook, Apple and now Google compete for both the loyalty of publishers and the attention of readers.

The post Turn Your AMP Up To 11: Everything You Need To Know About Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Turn Your AMP Up To 11: Everything You Need To Know About Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages