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GUEST COMMENT How Google+ highlights a new war on site speed

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by Paul Cook

The tension between using all the amazing online marketing technologies and plug-ins now available to site owners and the effect implementing those things has on the speed of their websites has come to the fore in the last month.

When Google launched Google+, we soon discovered that the plug-in to enable sharing of web content in the platform was a big one. It took a second to load, which, for large ecommerce businesses, is an absolute age in terms of user experience and, ultimately, sales conversions.

In simple terms, every asset a site owner adds to a page slows it down. From a picture to a web analytics tracking tag, digital marketers are making a compromise, whether they know it or not, between the impact that extra weight on the page will have in terms of load time and the benefits (to the user or to themselves) of that asset.

But, it is only in the last month that this effect – our own study a couple of years ago found that every extra second a page takes to load costs the site 10% in traffic – has been a significant topic of conversation.

The idea that Google+, the big G’s closest-yet answer to Facebook, could actually cost retailers millions was the spark. Now we’re hoping that online retailers, particularly in the UK (awareness of site speed is much higher in the US), take a sharper look at just how the tracking tags and plug-ins that currently litter their pages are affecting conversion.

In our study, it was clear that tracking tags, the bits of code used to install, manage and track every digital marketing technology were the slowest-loading assets on pages. The most common type took ¼ of a second to load, which might not sound much, but consider that e-commerce companies have at least five of these things on every page and between 15 and 20 on their conversion pages.

The buzz on this issue around Google+ was such that, within days, Google had announced a faster loading version of the + plug-in and, hot on its heels, a Page Speed Service through which Google will optimise people’s sites and send them down its own [epically large] servers to speed them up. We already know that Google recently included page speed as part of its formula for ranking websites so the war on speed is obviously starting to rage in Mountainview.

What’s key is that marketers’ reaction is not to stop installing these things – that would mean a halt on innovation – but consider ways like tag management systems and page acceleration services to minimise their impact on page weight. That way, digital marketers can have it all.

Paul Cook is chief executive of TagMan

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