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google-impact-mobile-load-times-on-engagement-sept2016It takes 19 seconds on average to load a mobile site’s home page over a fast 3G connection, says Google in releasing a report entitled “The need for mobile speed“, which also reveals that more than three-quarters (77%) of the sites analyzed took longer than 10 seconds to load. Slow load times can affect can significantly affect engagement, with ads taking at least some of the blame.

The study finds that a majority (53%) of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes more than 3 seconds to load, a finding that throws that 19 second average into stark relief. It’s worth noting that the 19-second figure was for home pages only, with leaf pages being almost half as slow. And lest the 3G network be blamed, the average home page load time on a 4G network wasn’t much better, averaging 14 seconds.

[SPONSORED: The Forrester Waveâ„¢: Digital Asset Management For Customer Experience, Q3 2016]

The study details the three elements contributing to slow load speeds: file size; element order; and server requests. Content file sizes averaged almost 1.5MB, which would take 7 seconds to load over a fast 3G connection. Ads also contributed to mobile sites’ weight, averaging more than 0.8MB, which in itself adds (pun intended) another 4 seconds to the load time over a fast 3G connection.

This might be a good time to remind you that one of the key reasons why consumers install ad blockers is to improve page load times…

The order in which site elements are loaded also figures into site speeds, with Google logically recommending that resources that show above the fold be prioritized.

As for the third element of load speeds, server requests? Of the 214 average server requests made per mobile web page, Google found that a strong majority (107) were ad-related, compared to just 69 that were content-related.

Here’s why all this matters. In comparing sites that loaded in 5 seconds against those that loaded in 19 seconds, Google’s data indicates that the former had:

  • 60% more page views per visit;
  • 35% lower bounce rates;
  • 70% longer average sessions; and
  • 25% higher viewability.

The full study, including Google’s recommendations for improving mobile site speed, can be accessed here.

About the Data: The report is based on numerous data sets, including:

  • A sample of 11.8k global mWEb homepage domains loaded using a fast 3G connecting timing first view only (no cached resources) in February 2016; and
  • Google Data, Aggregated, anonymized Google Analytics data from a sample of mWeb sites opted into sharing benchmark data, n=2.8-3.8K, Global, March 2016;
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