Speed as a feature

Performance optimization can be a hard sell inside an organization that has a lot of needs and not a lot of resources.

GQ recently has page loads upwards of 7 seconds and bounce rates 10-20% higher on mobile than desktop, so they invested in improving things, and it worked.

For GQ, having a faster site, along with features like new article pages and article recommendation widgets, has paid off in helping audience growth. Traffic jumped to 11 million uniques in July, the first full month of the relaunch, from 6 million in June, per the site. (Those are the site’s internal Omniture figures; comScore’s July numbers weren’t available at press time). Median time spent on the site rose to 7.8 minutes in July, from 5.9 in June.

The benefits have extended to advertisers. With people spending more time on the site, along with bigger and repositioned ad units, the interaction rate on ads rose 108 percent.

What’s best is that it worked not only for engagement with the website, but also for their ad units.

Speed does not have to be an inverse metric to advertising revenue. However, so much of the advertising I see out there is so pathetic that it seems it often is.

I’m really encouraged by more modern advertising units like you see on Vox or Quartz, that are more integrated with the content. I know that doesn’t go into the weird world of data collection and retargeting that’s been talked about a lot recently, but at least it addresses how ads show up on the page.

Imagine if we combine better designed ads with faster performing websites. Then, would we still be having conversations in publishing complaining about limited ad revenues and a need for invasive advertising? Does it have to be this way, or are publishers just not innovating to provide something better?

I look forward to (hopefully) reading more stories like GQ’s where performance and advertising strategy were aligned and not at war. Thankfully, it seems at least the ad companies are starting to pay attention.

And if you want to see GQ’s site in action, this article about Stephen Colbert is a fun one.

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