Tag Archives: Accelerated Mobile Pages

AMP links at large: What’s a publisher to do?

If you're a publisher that's implemented Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), you've likely seen views on those pages coming from some unexpected sources. Contributor Barb Palser explains how AMP links get shared from a variety of platforms. The post AMP links at large: What’s a publisher to do?...

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What is Google Stamp and what will it mean for marketers?

Google is set to launch a competitor to Snapchat Discover, known as Google Stamp. This new product will bring with it a host of opportunities for publishers and advertisers alike, but it brings with it some challenges too.

What do marketers need to know about this new service, and how successful will it be?

Early in August, news leaked via the Wall Street Journal that Google has been preparing a direct rival to one of Snapchat’s most popular and profitable features, Discover. This new product will be integrated with Google’s core services, and will be known as Google Stamp.

The name Stamp is a portmanteau created by uniting the abbreviation ‘St’ from the word ‘stories’ and the acronym AMP, from the Google-led Accelerated Mobile Pages initiative.  That quite succinctly sums up the purpose of Stamp: it will be a publishing platform that allow brands to tell stories in a new fashion, optimized for mobile.

It seems that after a reported bid of $30 billion dollars to buy Snapchat was rejected in 2016, Google has decided instead to mimic some of the functionality that has made Snapchat such a hit with younger audiences. This will be a further blow to Snap, after Facebook copied so many of their features to launch Instagram Stories last year – followed by additional imitators in Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Although a firm launch date is still unknown, there has been plenty of noise around this latest Google product.

So, what do we know about Google Stamp so far?

The core platform is expected to function in a very similar manner to Snapchat Discover. Users will be able to swipe between different pieces of content and there will be a healthy mix of video, images, and text to keep readers engaged.

What is Google Stamp and what will it mean for marketers?

Of course, the Google ecosystem is very different to the social networks it will be competing with in this space. Users come to Google to make a search, with a topic or product in mind. That is a different mindset altogether to that of a user browsing a social network, a fact that Google is painfully aware of and it is a gap they have tried to bridge many times.

Google has made a play to take some of the ‘discovery phase’ market recently, through its new homepage experience and the use of visual search technology in Google Lens.

This is seen as a significant growth opportunity in the industry. If tech companies can start suggesting relevant products to consumers before the consumer even knows what they want, they can open up a range of new revenue streams.

What is Google Stamp and what will it mean for marketers?

Source: Pinterest

Advances in machine learning technologies and predictive analytics mean that this is now possible, and there is an ongoing battle between Google, Pinterest, Amazon, and many others to claim this fertile ground.

All of these technological developments open up novel ways of communicating with audiences, particularly when it comes to storytelling. This has never truly been Google’s home turf, however, and it will need to give significant backing to Stamp if it is to convince users to change their long-held behaviors.

It is therefore anticipated that Stamp articles will feature just below the search bar within the Google interface. Giving Stamp this level of prominence will bring publishers’ stories to the attention of billions of daily users.

If we factor in the full suite of software and hardware that Google owns, it is easy to see the scale that Stamp could have. All of this is integrated through Google’s sophisticated DoubleClick technology solutions, so there is reason to believe that Google could finally start to crack the content syndication market.

Who will be able to publish Stamp stories?

Some large publishers, including Time Inc. and CNN, have been approached as potential launch partners for Stamp. However, it will be interesting to see how quickly this is opened up to the next tier of content creators.

The exclusivity of Snapchat Discover in its early days was cited as a reason for a damaging exodus to Instagram from a range of content creators. Publishers wanted to get involved and had a message to communicate, but Snapchat was slow to open up access to the platform.

The relationship between large publishers and the AMP project has at times been fractious, with the main bone of contention being that these pages are hard to monetize. Advertising revenues are as important to publishers as they are to Google, of course, so this is a course that all involved would like to see corrected.

Stamp gives us clear insight into how Google would like to do this. In essence, Stamp allows for a much more customer-centric form of adverting than we have traditionally seen from the search giant. By inserting native ads within content, Google would be making a significant shift from its AdWords marketing model.

From a business perspective, all of this ties in with the recent updates to Google’s AdSense products. The investment in improving AdSense will see display ads appear in much more relevant contexts and they will be less disruptive to the user experience. Once more, we see customer-centricity come to the fore.

What is Google Stamp and what will it mean for marketers?

What will Google Stamp mean for advertisers?

Advertising via Google Stamp will mean engaging with and understanding a new form of storytelling. Advertisers should therefore no longer see this just as a traditional media buy, as there will need to be close collaboration between content creators and content promoters to ensure that ads are contextual.

Of course, this will be similar to launching a campaign on Instagram or Snapchat, but it will be interesting to see where responsibility for Google Stamp media buys sits, purely by dint of this being Google rather than a social network. The same teams who handle AdWords campaigns would need to integrate new skillsets to make the most of this opportunity.

The ability to think creatively and forge connections with consumers continues to grow in importance, rather than interrupting their experiences. Combined with the targeting technologies and data at Google’s disposal, this will be a potent mix for those that are equipped to take advantage. Advertisers expect good returns from Google campaigns and will still get them, but they will need to approach campaigns differently.

Some unanswered questions

Of course, much is still unknown about Google Stamp. We know it will be very similar to Snapchat Discover and we suspect it will be given a prime position just below the Google search bar. However, the following questions remain unanswered for the moment:

  • How frequently will Google Stamp be featured in search results?
  • Will Stamp be a fixed feature of Google’s new homepage experience?
  • Which types of queries will trigger Stamp results?
  • What options will be open to advertisers? Will Google introduce innovative new formats to maximize Stamp’s potential?
  • How will Google rank Stamp posts?
  • Will publishers create different content for Stamp, or just re-use Instagram or Snapchat assets?
  • Will users migrate over to Google to use what seems likely to be a very similar product to Snapchat Discover?

We expect all of these questions to be answered in due course, although Google is still reticent on a firm release date for this ambitious venture.

Accelerated Mobile Pages: Is faster better?

Google has doubled down on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), its open source initiative designed to improve web page speed and performance for mobile users. More than 2 billion AMP pages have been published from over 900,000 domains, and many online publishers report significant gains in both traffic...

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
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Google Search Console: What the latest updates mean for marketers

Google Search Console has long been a go-to platform for SEOs on a daily basis.

It provides invaluable insight into how people are finding our websites, but also allows us to monitor and resolve any issues Google is having in accessing our content.

Originally known as Google Webmaster Tools, Search Console has benefited from some significant upgrades over the past decade. That said, it is still far from perfect and few would argue that it provides a complete package in its current guise. A raft of industry updates, particularly those affecting mobile rankings, has left Search Console’s list of features in need of an overhaul.

Therefore, Google’s recent announcement of some ongoing and upcoming changes to the platform was very warmly received by the SEO community. These changes go beyond the cosmetic and should help site owners both identify and rectify issues that are affecting their performance. There have also been some tantalizing glimpses of exciting features that may debut before the end of the year.

So, what has changed?

Google categorizes the initial Search Console changes into the following groups: Insights, Workflow, and Feedback Loops.

Within the Insights category, Google’s new feature aims to identify common “root-cause” issues that are hampering the crawling and indexation of pages on a website. These will then be consolidated into tasks, allowing users to monitor progress and see whether any fixes they submit have been recognized by Google.

This should be hugely beneficial for site owners and developers as it will accelerate their progress in fixing the big ticket items in the platform.

On a broader level, this is in line with Google’s drive to use machine learning technologies to automate some laborious tasks and streamline the amount of time people need to spend to get the most out of their products.

The second area of development is Organizational Workflow which, although not the most glamorous part of an SEO’s work, should bring some benefits that make all of our lives a little easier.

As part of the Search Console update, users will now be able to share ticket items with various team members within the platform. Given how many people are typically involved in identifying and rectifying technical SEO issues, often based in different teams or even territories, this change should have a direct and positive impact on SEO work streams.

Historically, these workflows have existed in other software packages in parallel to what occurs directly within Search Console, so bringing everything within the platform is a logical progression.

The third announcement pertains to Feedback Loops and aims to tackle a longstanding frustration with Search Console. It can be difficult to get everyone on board with making technical fixes, but the time lag we experience in verifying whether the change was effective makes this all the more difficult. If the change does not work, it takes days to realize this and we have to go back to the drawing board.

Google Search Console: What the latest updates mean for marketers

This lag is caused by the fact that Google has historically needed to re-crawl a site before any updates to the source code are taken into account. Though this will remain true in terms of affecting performance, site owners will at least be able to see an instant preview of whether their changes will work or not.

Feedback is also provided on the proposed code changes, so developers can iterate very quickly and adjust the details until the issue is resolved.

All of the above upgrades will help bring SEO to the center of business discussions and allow teams to work together quickly to improve organic search performance.

In addition to these confirmed changes, Google has also announced some interesting BETA features that will be rolled out to a wider audience if they are received positively.

New BETA features

Google has announced two features that will be tested within a small set of users: Index Coverage report and AMP fixing flow.

The screenshot below shows how the Index Coverage report will look and demonstrates Google’s dedication to providing a more intuitive interface in Search Console.

Google Search Console: What the latest updates mean for marketers

As Google summarized in their announcement of this new report:

“The new Index Coverage report shows the count of indexed pages, information about why some pages could not be indexed, along with example pages and tips on how to fix indexing issues. It also enables a simple sitemap submission flow, and the capability to filter all Index Coverage data to any of the submitted sitemaps.”

Once more, we see the objective of going beyond simply displaying information to go to a deeper level and explain why these issues occur. The final, most challenging step, is to automate the prescription of advice to resolve the issues.

Other platforms have stepped into this arena in the past, with mixed success. SEO is dependent on so many other contingent factors that hard and fast rules tend not to be applicable in most circumstances. Automated advice can therefore either be too vague to be of any direct use, or it can provide specific advice that is inapplicable to the site in question.

Technical SEO is more receptive to black and white rules than other industry disciplines, however, so there is cause for optimism with this new Google update.

The second BETA feature is the AMP fixing flow. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is Google’s open source initiative to improve mobile page loading speeds by using a stripped-back version of HTML code.

With the weight of one of the world’s biggest companies behind it, AMP has taken hold with an increasing number of industries and looks set to widen its reach soon within both ecommerce and news publishers.

Google has bet on AMP to see off threats from the likes of Facebook and Snapchat, so it stands to reason that they want to help webmasters get the most out of its features. Any new coding initiative will bring with it a new set of challenges too, and some developers will find a few kinks as they translate their content to AMP HTML.

The AMP fixing flow will look similar to the screenshot below and will allow users to identify and tackle any anomalies in their code, before receiving instant verification from Google on whether the proposed fix is sufficient.

Google Search Console: What the latest updates mean for marketers

What’s next?

The one aspect of Search Console that all marketers would love to see upgraded is the lag in data processing time. As it stands, the data is typically 48 hours behind, leading to some agonizing waits as marketers hope to analyze performance on a search query level. Compared to the real-time data in many other platforms, including Google Analytics and AdWords, Search Console requires two days to source and process its data from a variety of sources.

That may change someday, however. As reported on SE Roundtable, Google’s John Mueller has stated that they are investigating ways to speed up the data processing. Although Mueller added, “Across the board, we probably at least have a one-day delay in there to make sure that we can process all of the data on time”, this still hints at a very positive development for SEO.

With so many changes focused on speed and efficiency, a significant decrease in the data lag time on Search Console would cap this round of upgrades off very nicely.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): IS faster better?

Google has doubled down on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), its open source initiative designed to improve web page speed and performance for mobile users. More than 2 billion AMP pages have been published from over 900,000 domains, and many online publishers report significant gains in both traffic...

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

The AMP is a lie

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are a hot topic right now, but are they really the answer to your mobile page speed issues? Columnist Patrick Stox weighs in. The post The AMP is a lie appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
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Accelerated Mobile Pages vs Facebook Instant Articles: Is Google winning the mobile war?

Articles published with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) load four times faster than standard mobile pages with a 35% improvement in engagement time, according to new research from Chartbeat.

Facebook Instant Articles (FIA), a key competitor to Google’s AMP product, load faster than AMP. But publishers see three times as many AMP articles viewed per day than FIA articles.

This comes hot on the heels of a stream of encouraging news on AMP from the Google I/O keynotes, presented by VP product management Rahul Roy-Chowdhury and Malte Ubl, creator and tech lead of the AMP Project. These included:

  • There are now 2 billion AMP pages from over 900,000 domains, as of May 2017. A year ago there were 125 million AMP pages.
  • An average AMP page loads in less than a second and uses ten times less data than a normal mobile page.
  • AMP supporters and partners include Twitter, Tumblr, Qzone, Weibo, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Bing, Feedly, Nuzzle.
  • AliExpress reduced load times by 36% with AMP, helping to increase orders by 10.5% and conversion rates by 27%.

Meanwhile, in late May 2017, Facebook announced an extension to its Software Development Kit (SDK) so that articles produced for FIA will also be publishable as AMP articles, and soon also as Apple News. This is in response to publisher frustration at having to produce content in different formats for different platforms.

Facebook’s move could also be a reaction to a number of publishers reportedly dropping Facebook Instant Articles, and a recognition the FIA is losing ground to AMP.

A recap: What is AMP?

AMP is special type of slim-line mobile webpage, which is an open source project, led, or controlled (depending on your viewpoint), by Google. AMP web pages are faster because:

  • AMP is not part of the publisher’s main website (less baggage to download).
  • The content is static (less interactive baggage to stall download).
  • The articles are pre-cached on servers around the world, by Google or its AMP partners, so they are closer to the user (faster to download).

Any web page could be – and should be – speeded up in a similar way, by reducing page bloat, and using caching via a content delivery network. But the advantage of AMP is Google will only cache AMP pages and Google promotes AMP pages in mobile search above non-AMP pages.

As demonstrated by the following screenshots, of a Google search for “Trump” captured concurrently on a tablet and smartphone, using the tool mobilizer, AMP news stories dominate mobile search results for topical terms. Not just in the picture-led carousel of news, but throughout search results. AMP doesn’t feature at all in tablet results, which is baffling.

What the difference between AMP, Facebook Instant Articles, and Apple News articles?

Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News are news articles from third-party publishers that appear in the newsfeed on the Facebook app and within the Apple News app, respectively. They are tightly controlled by Facebook and Apple and only available to users of those apps. They are also not discoverable through web search or other third party sites or apps.

While these platforms present additional distribution channels for publishers, there is a double drawback to using them: the potential for losing out on direct traffic to their own sites and apps (where they potentially control all the ad revenue), and also the need to prepare articles in three additional formats.

The stats

Chartbeat’s research is particularly interesting as it provides an independent assessment of AMP and a comparison with FIA. There’s no inclusion of Apple News in the research, which is unfortunate as little is known about the platform except that it has 70 million users, according to Recode.

Chartbeat compared 360 sites that use both AMP and FIA, from its 50,000 media sites that use its analytics tools. So how did AMP stack up in the race against Facebook?

Speed and engagement

Let’s start with speed and engagement.

  • The research found the average mobile web article took 5.3 seconds to load, but AMP took 1.4 seconds. That’s not as quick as Google’s claim of under a second, but it is a four-fold improvement.
  • FIA loaded in a fraction of that time at 0.001 seconds, on most occasions too fast for Chartbeat to measure.
  • Comparing the read time of visitors coming from search, Chartbeat found readers engage with AMP articles for an average of 48 seconds v 36 seconds for normal mobile articles i.e. 35% longer.
  • There were no comparable engagement stats for FIA.

Accelerated Mobile Pages vs Facebook Instant Articles: Is Google winning the mobile war?

Considering AMP’s focus on speed, this comparison with FIA is embarrassing. However, Google is already working on speeding up AMP.

In his Google I/O keynote, Malte Ubl announced a plan to make AMP twice as fast to deliver “first contentful paint” – a technical term referring to the first ‘interesting bit’ of a webpage that the browser loads.

In practice, this will make it twice as quick to access the important part of a document, e.g. the text in an article, when clicked through from search.

Article volume

On a daily basis, publishers see three times as many AMP articles viewed as FIA articles, according to Chartbeat. The report authors concluded from these results that content has a longer lifespan on AMP, or receives traffic for more days from AMP, than from Facebook Instant Articles.

Accelerated Mobile Pages vs Facebook Instant Articles: Is Google winning the mobile war?

Article volume matters to publishers. Especially when they have to reproduce content for different platforms, as well as, and in competition with, their own sites and apps.

As noted above, Facebook has opened up its SDK so articles produced for FIA would also be AMP and Apple News ready.

Similarly, if AMP volume continues to plateau for these publishers as Chartbeat suggests it has since the beginning of the year, publishers could become restless.

AMP vs mobile web

The biggest competitor to AMP probably isn’t FIA or Apple News; it’s the plain old mobile web.

Chartbeat’s research shows that publishers that use AMP and FIA have seen them steadily make more of an impact on mobile traffic. But today AMP is 16% of all mobile traffic for AMP publishers, and FIA is 14.8% of all mobile traffic for FIA publishers. While this is still significant, the majority of mobile traffic is not made up of either.

Accelerated Mobile Pages vs Facebook Instant Articles: Is Google winning the mobile war?

Not everyone is happy with AMP

There has been a growing number of voices of dissent to AMP. A lot of this sentiment is summed up in this provocative Register article, calling on Google to “Kill AMP before it kills the web”.

It’s clear from the Google I/O keynote that AMP publishers have also raised issues. Elena Legeros highlighted and addressed four key challenges:

  1. All AMP pages look the same. Response: Google is releasing more templates through AMP start.
  2. It’s hard to measure/track visits to AMP pages. Response: Google Analytics is working with third party analytics companies to improve this.
  3. Not everyone likes AMP URLs in Google Search. Response: Google recognizes that it is frustrating. Will work with partners to display the original article URL.
  4. AMP pages do not monetize well through ads. Response: Google disagrees.

Andy Favell is Search Engine Watch’s columnist on mobile. He is a London-based freelance mobile/digital consultant, journalist and web editor. Contact him via LinkedIn or Twitter at Andy_Favell.

Site speed tactics in a mobile-first world: Why ecommerce brands need to step up their site speed game

A study of 700 top ecommerce brands found that the majority are underperforming when it comes to optimizing their sites for speed. Find out how you can avoid the same mistakes.

Web users are not patient. The speed of your site can make a massive difference to whether people will visit your site, whether they’ll stay on it, and whether they will come back. Not to mention whether they’ll make a purchase.

A massive 79% of shoppers who have been disappointed by a site’s performance say that they’re less likely to use the site again. But what constitutes ‘disappointed’?

We’re only human after all

Kissmetrics research on customer reactions to site speed has resounded across the industry, but it’s not something that should be forgotten:

“If an e-commerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1 second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales every year.”

That’s a 7% reduction in your conversion rate, and 52% of customers say site speed is a big factor in their site loyalty. A one second delay is bad – a two second delay is worse. 47% of consumers expect web pages to load within two seconds.

But based on the same research, a faster full-site load leads to a 34% lower bounce rate, and an improvement by just one second results in a 27% conversion rate increase.

It’s because site speed is such a vital part of building a successful ecommerce site that my team at Kaizen and I conducted a study into 700 top UK ecommerce sites, analyzing various aspects of their site speed performance.

What we found is that the biggest brands have some of the poorest optimization, with outdated web protocols, unresponsive pages, and bloated page size.

The average web page size is now 2.3MB (that’s the size of the shareware version of the classic game Doom), so we wanted to see whether the ecommerce industry is any better – since their businesses are directly dependent on their website performance.

Surprisingly, we have found that the web page size of the top UK ecommerce sites is 30% larger on average than standard websites – at 2.98 MB.

Average webpage size according to HTTPArchive

However, the web page size isn’t the only factor impacting the site speed. Even larger sites load and render quickly if they’re smart about how they deliver.

My team and I picked the top 700 UK ecommerce sites, based on their estimated monthly traffic with data kindly supplied by SimilarWeb. For each, we analysed them using Google’s PageSpeed Insights API, checked their page size and loading time on Pingdom, and verified their HTTP protocol using https://http2.pro/.

From this, we found the following data, and used it to determine which websites are best optimised for speed:

  • PageSpeed Insights Desktop Score (not considering third party data)
  • PageSpeed Insights Mobile Score (not considering third party data)
  • HTTP/2
  • Web page size
  • Loading Time
  • Loading Time per MB

Desktop vs mobile

Mobile connections are usually slower than desktop to begin with, so further delays are felt even more keenly. This, together with the fact that Google’s latest mobile update now factors site speed into mobile page ranking, makes it a high value consideration to ensure mobile pages are sufficiently optimized.

This becomes even more of a consideration when you factor in how much of ecommerce traffic is now mobile – for example Vodafone, the third top-scoring website in our recent research, receives only 20% of their traffic from desktop, with 80% coming from mobile devices.

Make your site work for you

Your site speed isn’t simply a dial you can turn up in your page settings; there are a number of factors which contribute to it. here’s what they are, and how you can start making your site one of the fastest out there.

Protocol power

HTTP/1.1 isn’t SPDY enough

Network protocols are the rules and standards that govern the end points in a telecommunication connection – how data is transmitted over the web. Common examples include IP – Internet Protocol – and HTTP – Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

The HTTP/1.1 protocol is decades old and doesn’t make full use of newer technologies. Its main downside is it doesn’t allow you to download files in parallel. For each file (or request), the server needs a separate connection.

HTTP/1.1 enables only one request per connection, while browsers now support a maximum of 6 connections per domain. This means that the number of files which can be downloaded and rendered simultaneously is limited – and that costs time.

Since the time of HTTP/1.1, Google has developed a newer version of the protocol, SPDY (“Speedy”), which allows simultaneous connections to be opened, and means it can serve multiple parts of the website (JavaScript, HTML, images, etc.) in parallel.

But SPDY isn’t the latest protocol developed by Google. Working closely with W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), they’ve developed the new HTTP/2 protocol. HTTP/2 has roughly the same characteristics as SPDY, but is also binary, and allows the server to ‘push’ information to the requester, with better HPACK compression.

Despite the clear advantages of the HTTP/2 protocol, only a few websites have made use of it. Our recent research discovered that only 7.87% of the top 700 ecommerce sites use the technology – compared to 11.3% of sites overall. Some examples of websites using HTTP/2 are https://www.vans.co.uk/, https://www.paperchase.co.uk/ or https://www.expedia.co.uk/.

According to Cloudflare.com, when they implemented HTTP/2, they saw customers’ average page load time nearly halved – from 9.07 seconds for HTTP/1.X falling to 4.27 seconds for HTTP/2. That’s a significant improvement in a key area of website efficiency.

However, HTTP/2 doesn’t solve everything, and in some cases the results can be disappointing. In our research, many websites achieved only very small speed gains in their loading times when served over HTTP/2 instead of HTTP/1.1.

Switching to HTTP/2 isn’t enough by itself – many websites fail to optimize for the change and lose out on the maximum speed gains.

Old-school techniques, such as domain sharding or sprites, can be counter-productive. And using huge CSS or JavaScript files where less than 10% of the rules and code is relevant to pages likely to be visited is a waste of both your user’s time and your server’s time.

Site speed tactics in a mobile-first world: Why ecommerce brands need to step up their site speed game

Screenshot from Dareboost comparison analysis of Oliver Bonas’ loading performance

Even our own measurements showed that the average loading time per 1 MB for websites supporting HTTP/2 was 1.74s, compared to 1.44s for websites not supporting HTTP/2.

A nice example of a successful HTTP/2 optimisation is Paperchase, who saved a full second of time necessary to load their website, as is shown here:

Site speed tactics in a mobile-first world: Why ecommerce brands need to step up their site speed game

Screenshot from Dareboost comparison analysis of Paperchase loading performance

How To Tackle Protocols – HTTP/2 and you

If you want to be at the forefront of network protocols – and at the top of the list of faster sites – get an HTTP/2 protocol in place.

While HTTP/2 only requires the server to support the new protocol (many now do, though Microsoft’s IIS has no plans yet), the browsers need a TLS connection. This means every connection over HTTP/2 will be safe and secure, adding an extra layer of security to the internet.

For more information on how you can get started with HTTP/2, have a look at the Kaizen in-depth article here.

It’s all about size

The smaller, the better

If you’re trying to get speed up, you need to keep size down. The less there is to move from the Internet to the user, the less time it takes.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, the ecommerce sites looked at in our study were bigger on average than other webpages out there – 30% bigger, at 2.98 MB, compared to a global standard of 2.3MB.

Format, compress, minify

One of the biggest issues on plus-sized websites is pictures. Unless they’re compressed and resized to suitable formats, they can be over-large and slow page speed to a crawl.

The solution to that problem explains itself – compress and resize – but less obvious fixes can be found in using the appropriate file type. The .png format makes files smaller if they’re in block coloring and simple – like infographics, illustrations and icons.

But for photographs, with a wide number of colors and much finer details, .png can compromise the quality of the image. You might consider using .jpg files instead, or .WebP, an open source image type format from Google, which supports both lossy and lossless compression.

Using correctly sized, unscaled images manually can be quite a daunting task for web developers. PageSpeed modules from Google can come in handy, automating many of the tasks necessary for site speed optimization.

You can also minify the source codes. CSS and JavaScript resources could be minified using tools like http://javascript-minifier.com/ and http://cssminifier.com/ – and should save kilobytes otherwise spent on whitespace.

The HTML should be also as compact as possible. We recommend stripping out all the unnecessary whitespace and empty lines.

Time to go mobile

Not very responsive

Most retailers in the study had mobile-optimized sites, but 24% of them served their mobile users a separate mobile site – usually on a separate sub domain. While this approach improves UX, it can be inconvenient for two reasons:

1)    Google handles subdomains as separate domains.

2)    Depending on how the redirects based on viewport are set up, in the new, mobile-first index world, this can mean that the Googlebot (visiting with smartphone user agent) will have troubles reaching the desktop version of the site.

A safer solution can be to use a responsive site that delivers the same HTML code to all devices, but adapts to the size and shape of the device used. We found that this had representation on only 76% of the sites.

Alarmingly, mobile sites themselves were largely poorly-optimized for mobile; the average mobile site scored 53.9/100 for speed, as opposed to the average desktop score of 59.4/100.

Hewlett Packard had a massive difference of 29 points between their desktop score (at 77/100) and their mobile (48/100), while the worst offenders were Carat London, who scored zero for both mobile and desktop score.

Here is the list of the top 10 websites based on Google’s Page Speed Insights:

URL Desktop Score Mobile Score Total PageSpeed Score
http://www.tmlewin.co.uk/ 97 95 192
http://www.ikea.com 95 88 183
http://www.vodafone.co.uk 83 99 182
http://www.findmeagift.co.uk/ 92 85 177
http://www.wynsors.com/ 89 88 177
http://www.sofasworld.co.uk/ 90 86 176
http://www.americangolf.co.uk/ 80 95 175
http://www.mulberry.com/ 88 86 174
http://www.worldstores.co.uk/ 89 85 174
https://forbiddenplanet.com/ 90 84 174

Mobile management

Much of the mobile optimization requires coding and/or web development skills, but worry not – Google have created a guide to delivering a mobile page in under a second.

AMP it up

AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages – is Google’s initiative for producing more efficient webpages for mobile. It’s a work-in-progress, but every day brings new developments and more support, customization and stability.

AMP pages have a number of benefits for all sites, including being preferred by Google in search rankings, and being faster to load. For ecommerce it’s a technology to implement ASAP, or at least keep an eye on.

While AMP debuted for publishing sites, recent updates have brought ecommerce sites into the fold, and eBay in particular have been quick on the uptake, now serving over eight million pages through the AMP system. Google is also working with eBay on things like A/B testing and smart buttons.

“With items like these in place, AMP for ecommerce will soon start surfacing,” says Senthil Padmanabhan, the principal engineer of eBay.

Customization on ecommerce AMP pages is currently low, but it’s an ideal technology for the industry, allowing customers quicker transitions between products – improving conversion rates and making the website easy to use.

During testing on the websites in our study, AMP was found to have a 71% faster load speed for blog posts, and a reduced page size from 2.3MB to 632kB.

Onwards and upwards

Site speed isn’t a problem that’s going to go away. As time goes by, the technology improves – AMP and HTTP/2 are just the latest steps on the road to real-time loading. 5G is on the horizon, and customers are only going to become less patient with slow-loading pages.

As a result, it’s increasingly necessary to keep an eye on your site analytics and your customer behavior. A speed improvement of just one second can improve your conversion rate by 27% – and a delay of one second can cost you millions a year.

Make sure you’re on top of bringing your ecommerce business and site into the modern era with the tips I’ve listed here.

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Site speed tactics in a mobile-first world: Why ecommerce brands need to step up their site speed game

A study of 700 top ecommerce brands found that the majority are underperforming when it comes to optimizing their sites for speed. Find out how you can avoid the same mistakes.

Web users are not patient. The speed of your site can make a massive difference to whether people will visit your site, whether they’ll stay on it, and whether they will come back. Not to mention whether they’ll make a purchase.

A massive 79% of shoppers who have been disappointed by a site’s performance say that they’re less likely to use the site again. But what constitutes ‘disappointed’?

We’re only human after all

Kissmetrics research on customer reactions to site speed has resounded across the industry, but it’s not something that should be forgotten:

“If an e-commerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1 second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales every year.”

That’s a 7% reduction in your conversion rate, and 52% of customers say site speed is a big factor in their site loyalty. A one second delay is bad – a two second delay is worse. 47% of consumers expect web pages to load within two seconds.

But based on the same research, a faster full-site load leads to a 34% lower bounce rate, and an improvement by just one second results in a 27% conversion rate increase.

It’s because site speed is such a vital part of building a successful ecommerce site that my team at Kaizen and I conducted a study into 700 top UK ecommerce sites, analyzing various aspects of their site speed performance.

What we found is that the biggest brands have some of the poorest optimization, with outdated web protocols, unresponsive pages, and bloated page size.

The average web page size is now 2.3MB (that’s the size of the shareware version of the classic game Doom), so we wanted to see whether the ecommerce industry is any better – since their businesses are directly dependent on their website performance.

Surprisingly, we have found that the web page size of the top UK ecommerce sites is 30% larger on average than standard websites – at 2.98 MB.

Average webpage size according to HTTPArchive

However, the web page size isn’t the only factor impacting the site speed. Even larger sites load and render quickly if they’re smart about how they deliver.

My team and I picked the top 700 UK ecommerce sites, based on their estimated monthly traffic with data kindly supplied by SimilarWeb. For each, we analysed them using Google’s PageSpeed Insights API, checked their page size and loading time on Pingdom, and verified their HTTP protocol using https://http2.pro/.

From this, we found the following data, and used it to determine which websites are best optimised for speed:

  • PageSpeed Insights Desktop Score (not considering third party data)
  • PageSpeed Insights Mobile Score (not considering third party data)
  • HTTP/2
  • Web page size
  • Loading Time
  • Loading Time per MB

Desktop vs mobile

Mobile connections are usually slower than desktop to begin with, so further delays are felt even more keenly. This, together with the fact that Google’s latest mobile update now factors site speed into mobile page ranking, makes it a high value consideration to ensure mobile pages are sufficiently optimized.

This becomes even more of a consideration when you factor in how much of ecommerce traffic is now mobile – for example Vodafone, the third top-scoring website in our recent research, receives only 20% of their traffic from desktop, with 80% coming from mobile devices.

Make your site work for you

Your site speed isn’t simply a dial you can turn up in your page settings; there are a number of factors which contribute to it. here’s what they are, and how you can start making your site one of the fastest out there.

Protocol power

HTTP/1.1 isn’t SPDY enough

Network protocols are the rules and standards that govern the end points in a telecommunication connection – how data is transmitted over the web. Common examples include IP – Internet Protocol – and HTTP – Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

The HTTP/1.1 protocol is decades old and doesn’t make full use of newer technologies. Its main downside is it doesn’t allow you to download files in parallel. For each file (or request), the server needs a separate connection.

HTTP/1.1 enables only one request per connection, while browsers now support a maximum of 6 connections per domain. This means that the number of files which can be downloaded and rendered simultaneously is limited – and that costs time.

Since the time of HTTP/1.1, Google has developed a newer version of the protocol, SPDY (“Speedy”), which allows simultaneous connections to be opened, and means it can serve multiple parts of the website (JavaScript, HTML, images, etc.) in parallel.

But SPDY isn’t the latest protocol developed by Google. Working closely with W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), they’ve developed the new HTTP/2 protocol. HTTP/2 has roughly the same characteristics as SPDY, but is also binary, and allows the server to ‘push’ information to the requester, with better HPACK compression.

Despite the clear advantages of the HTTP/2 protocol, only a few websites have made use of it. Our recent research discovered that only 7.87% of the top 700 ecommerce sites use the technology – compared to 11.3% of sites overall. Some examples of websites using HTTP/2 are https://www.vans.co.uk/, https://www.paperchase.co.uk/ or https://www.expedia.co.uk/.

According to Cloudflare.com, when they implemented HTTP/2, they saw customers’ average page load time nearly halved – from 9.07 seconds for HTTP/1.X falling to 4.27 seconds for HTTP/2. That’s a significant improvement in a key area of website efficiency.

However, HTTP/2 doesn’t solve everything, and in some cases the results can be disappointing. In our research, many websites achieved only very small speed gains in their loading times when served over HTTP/2 instead of HTTP/1.1.

Switching to HTTP/2 isn’t enough by itself – many websites fail to optimize for the change and lose out on the maximum speed gains.

Old-school techniques, such as domain sharding or sprites, can be counter-productive. And using huge CSS or JavaScript files where less than 10% of the rules and code is relevant to pages likely to be visited is a waste of both your user’s time and your server’s time.

Site speed tactics in a mobile-first world: Why ecommerce brands need to step up their site speed game

Screenshot from Dareboost comparison analysis of Oliver Bonas’ loading performance

Even our own measurements showed that the average loading time per 1 MB for websites supporting HTTP/2 was 1.74s, compared to 1.44s for websites not supporting HTTP/2.

A nice example of a successful HTTP/2 optimisation is Paperchase, who saved a full second of time necessary to load their website, as is shown here:

Site speed tactics in a mobile-first world: Why ecommerce brands need to step up their site speed game

Screenshot from Dareboost comparison analysis of Paperchase loading performance

How To Tackle Protocols – HTTP/2 and you

If you want to be at the forefront of network protocols – and at the top of the list of faster sites – get an HTTP/2 protocol in place.

While HTTP/2 only requires the server to support the new protocol (many now do, though Microsoft’s IIS has no plans yet), the browsers need a TLS connection. This means every connection over HTTP/2 will be safe and secure, adding an extra layer of security to the internet.

For more information on how you can get started with HTTP/2, have a look at the Kaizen in-depth article here.

It’s all about size

The smaller, the better

If you’re trying to get speed up, you need to keep size down. The less there is to move from the Internet to the user, the less time it takes.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, the ecommerce sites looked at in our study were bigger on average than other webpages out there – 30% bigger, at 2.98 MB, compared to a global standard of 2.3MB.

Format, compress, minify

One of the biggest issues on plus-sized websites is pictures. Unless they’re compressed and resized to suitable formats, they can be over-large and slow page speed to a crawl.

The solution to that problem explains itself – compress and resize – but less obvious fixes can be found in using the appropriate file type. The .png format makes files smaller if they’re in block coloring and simple – like infographics, illustrations and icons.

But for photographs, with a wide number of colors and much finer details, .png can compromise the quality of the image. You might consider using .jpg files instead, or .WebP, an open source image type format from Google, which supports both lossy and lossless compression.

Using correctly sized, unscaled images manually can be quite a daunting task for web developers. PageSpeed modules from Google can come in handy, automating many of the tasks necessary for site speed optimization.

You can also minify the source codes. CSS and JavaScript resources could be minified using tools like http://javascript-minifier.com/ and http://cssminifier.com/ – and should save kilobytes otherwise spent on whitespace.

The HTML should be also as compact as possible. We recommend stripping out all the unnecessary whitespace and empty lines.

Time to go mobile

Not very responsive

Most retailers in the study had mobile-optimized sites, but 24% of them served their mobile users a separate mobile site – usually on a separate sub domain. While this approach improves UX, it can be inconvenient for two reasons:

1)    Google handles subdomains as separate domains.

2)    Depending on how the redirects based on viewport are set up, in the new, mobile-first index world, this can mean that the Googlebot (visiting with smartphone user agent) will have troubles reaching the desktop version of the site.

A safer solution can be to use a responsive site that delivers the same HTML code to all devices, but adapts to the size and shape of the device used. We found that this had representation on only 76% of the sites.

Alarmingly, mobile sites themselves were largely poorly-optimized for mobile; the average mobile site scored 53.9/100 for speed, as opposed to the average desktop score of 59.4/100.

Hewlett Packard had a massive difference of 29 points between their desktop score (at 77/100) and their mobile (48/100), while the worst offenders were Carat London, who scored zero for both mobile and desktop score.

Here is the list of the top 10 websites based on Google’s Page Speed Insights:

URL Desktop Score Mobile Score Total PageSpeed Score
http://www.tmlewin.co.uk/ 97 95 192
http://www.ikea.com 95 88 183
http://www.vodafone.co.uk 83 99 182
http://www.findmeagift.co.uk/ 92 85 177
http://www.wynsors.com/ 89 88 177
http://www.sofasworld.co.uk/ 90 86 176
http://www.americangolf.co.uk/ 80 95 175
http://www.mulberry.com/ 88 86 174
http://www.worldstores.co.uk/ 89 85 174
https://forbiddenplanet.com/ 90 84 174

Mobile management

Much of the mobile optimization requires coding and/or web development skills, but worry not – Google have created a guide to delivering a mobile page in under a second.

AMP it up

AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages – is Google’s initiative for producing more efficient webpages for mobile. It’s a work-in-progress, but every day brings new developments and more support, customization and stability.

AMP pages have a number of benefits for all sites, including being preferred by Google in search rankings, and being faster to load. For ecommerce it’s a technology to implement ASAP, or at least keep an eye on.

While AMP debuted for publishing sites, recent updates have brought ecommerce sites into the fold, and eBay in particular have been quick on the uptake, now serving over eight million pages through the AMP system. Google is also working with eBay on things like A/B testing and smart buttons.

“With items like these in place, AMP for ecommerce will soon start surfacing,” says Senthil Padmanabhan, the principal engineer of eBay.

Customization on ecommerce AMP pages is currently low, but it’s an ideal technology for the industry, allowing customers quicker transitions between products – improving conversion rates and making the website easy to use.

During testing on the websites in our study, AMP was found to have a 71% faster load speed for blog posts, and a reduced page size from 2.3MB to 632kB.

Onwards and upwards

Site speed isn’t a problem that’s going to go away. As time goes by, the technology improves – AMP and HTTP/2 are just the latest steps on the road to real-time loading. 5G is on the horizon, and customers are only going to become less patient with slow-loading pages.

As a result, it’s increasingly necessary to keep an eye on your site analytics and your customer behavior. A speed improvement of just one second can improve your conversion rate by 27% – and a delay of one second can cost you millions a year.

Make sure you’re on top of bringing your ecommerce business and site into the modern era with the tips I’ve listed here.

Baidu becomes Google’s biggest ally in mobile page speed

Chinese search engine Baidu will soon support Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in its search results, expanding the reach of AMP significantly. Columnist Hermas Ma believes the worldwide impact on mobile page speed will be notable. The post Baidu becomes Google’s biggest ally in mobile page speed...

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