One of the factors that determine website user experience is how quickly pages load, which in turn is decided by how the number and type of ads present.
According to a Google report, 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load. Another survey showed that nearly 70% of consumers admitted that page speed influenced their online purchasing habits.
Since advertising continues to remain an important source of revenue for publishers, poor loading speed is a serious issue.
So, how can you load ads without impacting page speed? Read on to find out.
Table of contents:
What Is Page Speed?
Page speed refers to how quickly the content on a web page appears after a user clicks on a link or enters a URL in the search bar.
By “content”, we mean text, static images, and audiovisual material—anything that is a part of the page. Although other factors—such as the device used, physical location of the user and the time when the site was accessed—can also affect page load speed, these are client-side factors beyond a publisher’s control. Among the factors a publisher can control, ads are among the most important of these.
Depending on their number and nature, ads, then, can be either a boon or a bane for a website.
Why Does Website Page Speed Matter?
Page speed matters because it is one of the most important determinants of user experience on a website.
Here are three key factors to consider when it comes to page load time.
1. User Experience
Professionalism and reliability matter, and this can be sensed as much in your page load time as it can in the quality of your content. Think of the page load speed as the gateway to your website—it is the first interaction a visitor has with your website, and goes a long way in shaping their experience with it.
While content is important, how quickly visitors can access it will be a key ranking factor for your site's rankings on Google and other search engines. Page load speed is a factor in deciding your website’s search rankings
Faster loading sites are better at conversions. First-time visitors to your site are unlikely to become customers if it loads too slowly.
What Is the Average Page Speed?
In general, the average page load time depends on the device you're using. According to a Google report from 2018, the average page load time for mobile sites is 15.3 seconds. More recent research by the SEO consultancy Backlinko, however, states that the average site speed for mobile devices is 27.3 seconds, while the average site speed for a desktop computer is 10.3 seconds.
On top of the differences in page load time between devices, there are also differences between industries. Web marketing firm Blue Corona reports that in the media sector, for example, the average page load time is 5.5 seconds while the load time for the finance and technology sectors is 5.9 and 6.7 seconds respectively.
What Is a Good Page Load Time?
A good load time is “as quickly as possible”, as the less your customers have to wait, the more positive their experience of your site will be.
More specifically, however, Semrush recommends that the goal for a good load time should be 1-2 seconds. More broadly, Hubspot reports that the highest conversion rates typically occur on sites with a maximum site speed of 2 seconds, while digital marketing agency Portent recommends a 1-4 second load time.
It's worth noting that good site speed shouldn't come at the expense of providing good content, as the latter is, ultimately, why people visit your site.
How Do Ads Affect Website Page Speed?
Ads affect website speed because they add considerably to the page weight of a given web page. By page weight, we're referring to all of the files on a page that must be downloaded to view the page, while content refers to both the textual and visual elements on a page. Because of this, ads that have been poorly optimized for load speed can slow down a website.
Poorly implemented ads, however, aren't the only culprit. Ad networks whose servers haven't been optimized for site speed can also affect the speed of a web page. Although no ad network is perfect, some just aren't as efficient as others when it comes to page load times.
Other factors, such as the ad placement strategies and how display ads affect SEO can also play a pivotal role in determining page loading speed. All these factors cumulatively affect your website’s average page speed load time.
How Do Ads Impact Core Web Vitals?
To assess the overall user experience of a web page, Google has come up with the following three factors, which, collectively, are known as core web vitals.
1. Largest Contentful Paint
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) refers to how long it takes for the majority of a page's content to appear once someone has accessed the web page.
2. First Input Delay
First Input Delay (FID) concerns the time it takes for a visitor to interact with a page once it has downloaded. Examples of interactions could be choosing a menu option on a page or entering your name in a field.
3. Cumulative Layout Shift
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) refers to the stability of a page as it's loading. The less that individual elements move around as the page loads, the lower the page’s CLS.
Ads affect core vitals in several ways. LCP, for example, is affected whenever an ad takes long to appear, while a page's FID score will depend on how easily a visitor can interact with an ad that invites action from them.
As for CLS, a page's stability will be affected by how much space has been set aside for an ad—the less space there is for the ad, the more the elements of the page will repeatedly shift around and, therefore, the greater the page's instability.
How to Test Page Speed
There are many speed testing tools that allow you to gauge your website's speed. Google PageSpeed Insights (GPSI) and Pingdom are two of the more popular ones. Follow these steps to use them.
- Visit the GPSI homepage.
- Enter the URL of the site you wish to test at the top of the page, then click “Analyze”.
- Review the tool's analysis of the site's core web vitals and other metrics.
- Visit the Pingdom homepage.
- Enter the URL of the site you wish to test at the top of the page, along with the region where you're running the test from, then click “Start Test”.
- Review the tool's speed insights of the site's key metrics.
How to Test Ad Load Speed
Publisher Ads Audits for Lighthouse and Google Ad Speed Report, a tool within the Google Ad Manager platform, are two of the most popular ad load speed testers. Follow these steps to use them.
Publisher Ads Audits for Lighthouse
- Visit the Publisher Ads Audits for Lighthouse web page
- Enter the URL of the site you wish to test at the top of the page, then click “Generate Report”
- Review the tool's report in a new tab.
Google Ad Speed Report
- Log into the Google Ad Manager platform
- Click on “Reporting”, then “Reports”, then “New Report”
- Assign a name to the report you wish to create for the site you're testing
- Select the metrics you wish to test
- Save the report, then run the test.
9 Ways to Place Ads Without Compromising Website Speed
Loading ads on your website while trying to attain a good page loading speed is a delicate balancing act between content and time that requires ongoing attention. Publishers need to keep one eye on a site’s loading speed and the other on its profitability metrics such as page rpm.
But with the right approach and tools, it is possible for publishers to optimize for speed without compromising on ad revenue. Here are nine tips to help give your customers the best user experience while maximizing your ad revenue.
1. Choose a Good Ad Network Partner
If you're a publisher, ad networks can make or break your site’s loading speed. This is because a good network partner will provide you with a variety of ad formats that come with different loading speeds, allowing for a faster overall loading experience. If your ad network partner provides only heavy, slow loading ads, they will bog down your webpage.
Along with different ad formats and their corresponding load times, it's also worth remembering that different platforms favor different ad revenue models—an important point, given that pay-per-click (PPC) ads require more coding compared to other ads, which can result in slower loading pages.
Good network partners will also use servers that have been optimized for page loading speed, as well as platforms that expedite the core processes of programmatic advertising—such as Publift's Fuse platform—resulting in faster load times.
2. Test Ad Partners
Another way for publishers to increase page speed is to run speed tests on their network partners’ ads. Various testing tools are available online for this. You can even create your own test page for ad tags—pieces of code on a publisher's site that serve to display ads.
3. Avoid Ad Clutter
Ads increase the weight of the page that contains them, and heavy pages take longer to load. To optimize your site loading speed then, it pays to bring a functional approach to your content.
Start by asking some questions. Are the ads on my site serving a worthwhile purpose? That is, do they add to my ad revenue, or are they more of a burden? If they’re worth having, do they marry with my other content? If not, what, in the end, is essential to my page and what isn't?
These are some of the questions you need to ask to determine whether, in running your site, you're running a tight ship.
A popular rule of thumb is to have no more than five ads on your page, though this number will need to drop for pages with less content. In the end, it's best to focus less on yardsticks and more on what research and intuition tell you about what your audience will and won't like, regardless of whether that, ultimately, translates into fewer ads on your site or more.
4. Optimize Static Ads
Even if you are aiming for a highly functional approach to your website with only a handful of static ads, even these would need to be optimized for maximizing site speed.
By “optimization”, we're referring to the size and format of your ads' images. Ideally, an image should be no larger than 100kb. It's also worth incorporating fixed width and auto-height instructions, as this is likely to make your audience receptive to your images.
As for the format of your ad images, jpg files are ideal for high-quality images that require no modifications, while png files are recommended for images that contain text, logos or icons.
Whether you choose one file format or another, it's also worth noting that ad networks usually have size restrictions. The Google Display Network, for example, only accepts static ad files of 150kb or less.
5. Optimize Rich Media Ads
The other optimization you need to keep in mind is for rich media ads. While ads in this category—banner ads, interstitials and video ads among many others—can be very engaging, they also take their toll on page load time. Because of this, it's important to use them carefully.
If you decided to use them, then follow these tips:
- With video files, choose files that are no bigger than 1GB and have a video frame rate of 30fps and an aspect ratio of 16:9 or 4:3 for landscape and 9:16 or 3:4 for portrait.
- Recommended video file formats are Windows's AVI and Apple's QuickTime
- Avoid using auto-audio ads. Any audio ads should start with a clearly labeled, user-initiated click. They should also include a progress bar, as well as stop/pause and mute/unmute buttons.
- Some file formats are faster than others, so favor GIF, jpg, text, and flash files.
7. Use Asynchronous Tags
Asynchronous loading is another handy tip. With asynchronous loading, your ads' tags load independently of the page that contains them, in contrast to synchronous loading where ad tags load in lockstep with their webpage—a common feature of older, slower websites.
Asynchronous loading, then, is the way to go. You can implement it by obtaining the correct loading code from your ad partner's dashboard.
8. Use Lazy Loading
Lazy loading is the economical display of ads and other content. Instead of loading all of a site's ads as quickly as possible, a site that's been lazy load optimized will only load ads when visitors are likely to see them.
In other words, a visitor will only see your ad if they scroll to that section of your site where the ad is located. Implementing lazy loading effectively spreads the burden of a page's page weight, enabling content to appear sooner when it's needed and later when it isn't.
In spite of its advantages, lazy loading also comes with potential drawbacks. For example, visitors may scroll to where the ad is located on the page and then move on to another section before it has time to appear, rendering the ad useless.
Striking a balance, then, between required content, loading speed, and your ability to make sense of it all can be tricky.
9. Utilize Caching
A cache is a type of computer memory in which frequently-used data—such as passwords—is temporarily stored so that the data can be retrieved more quickly instead of it being accessed from scratch every time it's needed. Caching is the practice of storing and retrieving caches. Browsers do it when they access a site, as do servers when they retrieve browser caches of visitors who have already visited the server's site.
This latter form of caching is of particular use to publishers and advertisers as it expedites the page load time for repeat visitors. By storing critical data on their own servers, website owners are able to load requested web pages faster. Doing this consistently leads to a positive experience for visitors.
If your site is a WordPress site, there are various plugins to help you with caching, such as WP Super Cache and Quick Cache.
In short, ad loading is a critical element in determining the speed of your website. The number of ads you display, along with their nature, affects how quickly your site's visitors can access its content. But as far as the first impressions and regular experience of your customers is concerned, site speed is the factor to watch.
Thankfully, there's a range of tools and tips that can help you optimize your speed. Pingdom and Google's Ad Speed Report, for example, can give you a snapshot of your load speed, while carefully choosing your ad partners, avoiding ad clutter and sticking to speed-friendly file formats are some of the other things you do.
It's worth remembering, however, that there's no one-size-fits-all solution. But by keeping up with the latest ad optimization strategies, such as using Publift’s Page Performance product for your ads, you'll be on course to give your customers the experience they want.
If you’re making more than $2,000 in monthly ad revenue, contact us today to learn more about how Publift can help increase your ad revenue and best optimize the ad space available on your website or app.
Do Ads Make Websites Slower?
Yes. Too many ads, or ads that take too long to load, can slow down a website.
What Affects Page Loading Speed?
Page loading speed is determined by the weight of the page, the design of the web page, the capabilities of the server it is hosted on, the user’s location and device type, etc.