Overcoming common performance challenges for online publishers

Website performance

There’s no point spending time building a spectacular website if no one can find it.

Digital publishers exist in a crowded playing field so your website is the foundation for the success of your media business.

Whether your revenue model relies on subscriptions, advertising, sponsorship or donations; optimising performance and engagement is integral to success. 

The ROI of high performing publishing websites

What’s New In Publishing last year reported that the BBC  lost an additional 10 percent of users for every second its site took to load.

That article—highlighting the negative impact slow-to-load sites have on revenue—also cites a survey from Unbounce, which found:

  • 27% of people are only willing to wait up to three seconds for a site to load on their phone
  • 32% are willing to wait up to six seconds
  • Only 24% are willing to wait longer than six seconds

In summary, if your site is slow to load it doesn’t matter how great your content is; you’ve lost potential visitors before the page even finishes loading.

Take a moment to consider these crucial performance questions:

How can digital publishers and media owners optimise website performance?

1. A robust backend and hosting platform

At The Code Company, we’ve written about our experience with WordPress as our digital publishing platform of choice, and described how—when configured correctly—it can scale to handle large amounts of traffic effortlessly.  

Not only is WordPress user friendly with a range of integrations and flexibility, but it’s also the platform of choice for over 37% of the internet. 

Is your content management system running as smoothly as it could be? 

2. Best coding practices and quality standards

At The Code Company, we’re committed to WordPress Coding Standards.

In fact, we’ve developed an internal quality assurance program to ensure the build quality of those sites meet our high technical standards. 

Bespoke site development on top of open source frameworks such as WordPress can result in much faster sites that don’t include unnecessary code that slows your site significantly. 

Does your current site follow industry standards and best practices, or is it built with a generic theme and performing poorly?

3. Ad tech

One of the biggest culprits for poor site performance with large publishing websites is the advertising technology that runs on the site.

Implementing the ad tech in a performant manner can be a time-consuming exercise as merging and reconciling the conflicts between different ad tech providers can be complex.

Are you taking advantage of asynchronous ad loading?  

4. Tracking & third party analytics

Tracking and analytics tools can greatly assist in understanding your audience; and can provide useful insights into how people use your site.

With hundreds of options available, every additional integration can add page weight and slow down your website’s performance. It’s critical to evaluate every integration and to ensure you can use as many as possible. 

Do you need all of the tracking and analytics tools currently running on your site? 

How performance improves advertising revenue

Photo of Ben Morrisroe

A faster website also results in a better yield when it comes to your digital advertising revenue. 

To explain the benefits, we spoke to Publift, the only Google-certified publishing partner in Australia / New Zealand. Head of Publisher Development Ben Morrisroe explained the importance of page speed.

“Page speed can have a large impact on the revenue you are able to generate from your site.

Ad view time will be impacted while waiting for the ads to load, leading to reduced performance of those ads for advertisers and thus reduced CPMs when you do have users on the site.

To prove the impact of speed on revenue, Google conducted an experiment by adding a one-second delay to 4 billion impressions and monitored performance. With 1 second of added delay, impressions decreased by 1.1% for mobile traffic and 1.9% for desktop traffic. And with 1 second of added delay, viewability rate decreased by 3.6% for mobile traffic and 2.9% for desktop traffic.

Optimising for site and ad speed will not only improve the user experience, allowing you to keep more users on the site for longer, but it will directly impact the revenue you can make from ads on the site as well. Google’s beta released Ad Audits tool for Lighthouse allows you to better understand the speed of your ads, where delays may be coming from and how best to solve these.”

READ MORE: Fast & Easy: 7 ways publishers can boost website performance

How to monitor and benchmark website performance

It makes sense to look to Google and its official tools when it comes to testing performance. This includes Lighthouse and the newly launched Web Dev Measure.

Your tech teams should be on top of this. Beause regularly measuring and monitoring factors that influence your site’s performance (traffic, readability, engagement etc. ) is imperative. Carefully monitoring your site’s performance means you can be as proactive as possible at identifying issues or problems. Once you’ve done this you can commit to improving those underperforming metrics. 

By simply adding your URL to this measurement tool at Web Dev you’re given a range of scores against baseline best-practice information and suggestions for enhancements. 

Or you could partner with The Code Company and let our publishing technicians keep your site a top notch performer.

Alec Arnold

Alec is a WordPress and full stack developer. He specialises in integrations with Apple News, AMP and Google Ad Manager. Alec also has a strong engineering background and works on a lot of our custom functionality projects.