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Common Performance Challenges for Online Publishers & Digital Media Solved

The foundation upon which a digital publishing or media business is built is its website. Whether your business model relies on subscription revenue, advertising, sponsorship or donations, optimising performance and engagement is integral to success. 

It’s essential, as a publishing and media business leader or decision maker, that you understand the return on investment that a higher performing website can deliver.

What’s New In Publishing last year reported that the BBC found the organisation 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 includes a survey from Unbounce. They survey found that 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, and 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.

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 35% of the internet. 

Is your current CMS 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 the tracking and analytics tools currently running on your site? 

Monitoring and benchmarking 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. but regularly measuring and monitoring factors that influence your site’s performance, its traffic, its readability—and resulting engagement—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. 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) benefits 

It goes without saying, but there’s no point in spending time building a spectacular website if no one can find it.

Digital publishers exist in a crowded playing field, but it’s worth identifying and understanding exactly what it is your business offers that others don’t. This may feel like Marketing 101, but  you can leverage this differentiation to optimise search visibility.

A higher performing website is greatly advantageous for how search engines like Google see your site.

Improved advertising revenue

Photo of Ben Morrisroe

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

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.”

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.

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