Facebook rolls out prefetching, urges improved mobile site performance

Mobile users are impatient. As many as 40 percent will abandon a site due to a delay of as little as 3 seconds, according to “The Very Real Costs of Bad Website Performance” report from the Aberdeen Group. Now Facebook is suggesting a course of action for its advertisers as it announced its own updates for a better mobile experience.

Starting today, Facebook is enabling prefetching, which preloads mobile content in the Facebook in-app browser before a link is tapped and can shorten mobile site load time by 29 percent or 8.5 seconds, improving the experience and decreasing the risk of site abandonment.

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“Our goal is to improve user experience by helping businesses be the best mobile advertisers they can be, so we’re always developing new tools and insights to improve mobile experience,” Facebook said on its Facebook Business page.  

“There are still huge opportunities that exist for marketers on mobile, but in order to realize those opportunities, people need to have consistently great experiences,” said Greg Stuart, CEO, Mobile Marketing Association, as quoted on the Facebook Business page. “The poor performance of marketers’ mobile websites, such as slow page load times, continues to be an issue and is conditioning people to navigate away before they ever see the content or products they want. This also causes headaches for measurement systems who are trying to piece together what people are clicking on, watching or buying. We are looking into ways to help marketers optimize their mobile sites as we believe this will help improve the entire industry.”

Site load times can be affected by numerous factors, Facebook says, including quality of connectivity, whether or not a site is optimized for mobile and the website’s server, but there are many things companies can do to improve their mobile site performance, including: 

  • Minimizing landing page redirects, plugins and link shorteners
  • Compressing files to decrease mobile rendering time
  • Improving server response time by utilizing multi-region hosting
  • Using a high-quality Content Delivery Network to reach audiences quickly
  • Removing render-blocking javascript

Nobody wants to wait for a website to load, and site abandonment hurts business objectives, like completing a purchase or filling out a form, Facebook notes. It also can hurt efforts to measure performance, as people often abandon sites before third-party site analytics have time to register a page visit, making it more difficult to track and optimize ad performance.

Facebook also said that it already has made several optimized solutions available to advertisers, including Canvas, Pages and in-app browsing capabilities. Facebook describes Canvas as “a mobile ad experience within Facebook that enables businesses to share their stories in a beautiful, immersive way. And it loads quickly, as much as 10 times faster than standard mobile web.”

Pages are described as “a great way for small businesses to build a presence online and on mobile. Businesses can use their Pages to share what they’re all about and what they have to offer, and also communicate directly with their customers through Facebook. We also feature an in-app browser, which means when people click to websites within the Facebook app, they can load and browse the site without having to leave Facebook.”

Facebook says advertisers who make use of those tools can improve the mobile site load time and the experience.

“Over the coming months, we’re working to improve ad experiences for people by considering website performance and a person’s network connection in our ad auction and delivery system. In this way, we can better match ads to the moments when people can best engage with content. Helping to ensure the best ad experiences on mobile is key to providing value for both people and businesses on Facebook."