By Chris (Tres) Homer
There is nothing more frustrating than needing information in a pinch and being stuck waiting, seemingly forever, for a website to load. It’s even more frustrating when after all that wait time, the page you just spent the last 5 seconds (forever I know) loading is not even relevant to the information you were looking for. Welcome to the world of (bad) advertising.
As a marketer, I can’t help but to notice how bad in general paid ads are. The ads are poorly written, don’t communicate their services effectively, and are devoid of any optimization whatsoever, and most frustrating, the landing page is not relevant to the ads. However, the most recent frustration with ads comes in the form of speed.
Having a slow website will cost you money and most importantly, clients.
If you are familiar with Google AdWords you will understand that there are some basic concepts that every marketer engages in when optimizing an ad campaign. You focus on the keywords themselves for relevance, create ads that communicate services effectively and relate to the keywords, and then you send someone to a landing page that matches the search intent of the user. When doing these properly you can achieve a high quality score, save money per click, and most importantly, increase conversions. In 2017 however, there is a new player on the block, site speed.
Google has pushed site speed over the past couple of years in response to the rapidly growing mobile user base. In 2016, Google finally confirmed that over half of all searches performed on Google were done on a mobile device. It is because of this that Google wants sites to load as fast as possible. Mobile users expect information extremely fast and data shows that sites that fail to meet these expectations perform worse than sites that do. Why would ads be any different?
How does site speed affect paid advertising?
The first effect of poor site speed will be reflected on the cost-per-click (CPC) that the advertiser will pay. Contrary to popular belief, the law firms in the first ad slot do not necessarily mean that they are paying more for clicks than the rest of the advertisers. As a matter of fact, it is very common for the first slot in Google ads to pay far less than the rest of the advertisers. This is all due to Quality Score. Quality score is a measure of the effectiveness of the entire ad campaign. It looks at the ads, keywords, landing page, and calculates an expected CTR (click through rate).
If your landing page is poorly optimized, including site speed, it will negatively affect the quality score of your ad campaigns, thus increasing your CPC. With a decrease in ad position and a higher CPC your ROI is taking an immediate hit simply due to your site loading too slow, especially on mobile. Remember, the end goal of paid advertising on Google is to achieve a low CPL (cost per lead) in order to maximize the return on your investment with the highest possible margin.
How do I improve my site’s speed?
Google is nice enough to provide a free tool called Site Speed Insights in which you can run your website, or a specific landing page, through the tool and receive recommendations on how to improve the load time of the site. Some of the most common culprits include large images, having no caching in place, extra code that is loading in the header, and even the server that the website is hosted on.
By taking the time to pick off these site speed issues, you should see an almost immediate jump in the load time of your site. There is however another way to vastly improve site speed, something called AMP. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a project backed by Google that focuses on making a website’s content load almost instantaneously on mobile devices. Since over 50% of all traffic is on a mobile device, Google wants users to be able to access information at the blink of an eye.
In February of 2016 Google officially added AMP pages to mobile search results. Since then, marketers have noticed that websites with AMP pages have seen a dramatic ranking boost. How does this relate to paid ads though?
If site speed is a main driver of quality score, ad placement, and CPC, it makes sense to looking into AMP pages when creating landing pages for your ad campaigns. AMP pages behave by stripping down elements that don’t need to be on the page, such as sidebars, images, extra code and scripts, and even header and footer elements. AMP pages are highly focused on delivering the content in a fast, easily digestible way.
The main issue we have seen with AMP pages is the removal of conversion elements. If you are paying for each click to your website, you want those visitors to convert at the highest rate possible in order to maximize your ROI. If you are delivering an AMP page, which will provide benefit to your ads from a CPC and ad position sense, you may be inadvertently removing key conversion elements, thus reducing the conversion rate on your landing pages.
If you are thinking of implementing AMP to your site’s landing pages, ensure that the pages are still set up in a way to fully maximize conversion.
Site speed is extremely important and will only have a greater impact on Google Ads as time goes on. Optimize your website as much as possible to increase site speed, look into setting up AMP on your website, and start really delivering the best experience possible to your users.