Facebook Is Driving Advertisers to Decrease Load Times for Mobile Websites

The changes could affect who sees which ads

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Facebook is putting more pressure on brands to speed up their mobile websites so more users will stick around after clicking on an ad.

On Wednesday, Facebook started preloading ads even before anybody clicks on them. It's a move that could help decrease the overall loading time for mobile websites in order to prevent users from leaving sites before they even finishing loading. The feature, called prefetching, could potentially speed up the loading process by as much as 20 to 30 percent.

That could be a welcome change for users and marketers, considering Facebook said slower internet connections often take between 8 and 14 seconds to load the average website. The social platform, citing one recent report, mentioned that as many as 40 percent of users leave a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

However, there's a catch: The social network is working to factor load time into determining which users see any given ad. 

According to Matt Idema, Facebook's vp of monetization product marketing, the goal is to both improve user experience and business results. He said that as of February, more than 40 percent of small businesses in the U.S. had not yet optimized their websites for mobile.

"Speed, a good user experience, meeting their expectations of something loading quickly," he said. "Going back to the research, that's what people expect."

Idema wouldn't disclose how exactly app delivery might affect which ad a user sees. However, he said the need to move everyone to mobile is an industry challenge Facebook wants to increase awareness of during the coming months before any updates go into effect.

In a blog post Wednesday, Facebook laid out a number of steps businesses can already take to improve website load time. For example, sites can minimize landing page redirects and plug-ins while also shortening links. Advertisers can also make sure all files are compressed, utilize multi-region hosting for websites and remove render-blocking JavaScript.

Facebook has already launched a number of features meant to hasten load times. Already, native ad experiences such as Canvas are optimized for mobile, along with other in-app experiences such as Pages.

Facebook isn't the only tech giant pushing for faster load times. In February, Google launched AMP—Accelerated Mobile Pages—as a way to help publisher and advertisers pages load faster. The open-source project, first announced in October, reportedly cuts load times by anywhere between 15 and 85 percent.

@martyswant martin.swant@adweek.com Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.