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Facebook’s News Feed to penalise slow-loading websites

Facebook’s News Feed is going to start considering the estimated load time of webpages when deciding where to rank different stories. Facebook said that factors including the “general speed” of the webpage and the strength and state of your Internet connection will be used when considering the final ranking location.
Pages that load more quickly should end up ranking above slower ones. Facebook reckons this will improve your experience in its app by ensuring content appears promptly when you click on a link from the feed. It cited research that found 40 percent of website visitors will switch elsewhere if the page doesn’t load within three seconds.
“We’re always listening to our community to understand how we can improve their experience of News Feed,” Facebook said. “We’ve heard from people that it’s frustrating to click on a link that leads to a slow-loading webpage. During the coming months we’re making an update to News Feed to show people more stories that will load quickly on mobile and fewer stories that might take longer to load, so they can spend more time reading the stories they find relevant.”
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Facebook didn’t explain exactly how it will determine a page’s load speed. However, it said most publishers shouldn’t notice any significant changes to the distribution of their content. Only sites that are noticeably sluggish will be negatively impacted by the result.
Even with Facebook’s reassurances, the change will still alarm some publishers. Since Facebook is now following Google in favouring faster sites, publishers that are struggling to modernise their infrastructure could be trapped in a cycle of decline.
Google is trying to convince site owners to use its AMP technology to significantly boost the speed of their mobile pages. AMP sites already get preferential treatment in search results and could now be further favoured by Facebook’s News Feed. Similarly, Facebook already offers higher News Feed places to content using its own Instant Pages, an alternative to AMP.
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Publishers that don’t use AMP or Instant Pages could find it harder to increase their traffic. Although AMP is an open-source standard, Google exercises tight control of it. Among many webmasters, the technology is viewed sceptically as an invasive Google ploy to increase its dominance online.
Facebook now seems ready to give AMP sites even greater priority. The company’s also trying to improve the image of its own app though. If News Feed content loads faster and offers a more responsive experience, users are more likely to return to Facebook and engage in longer sessions.
Facebook has published several tips and guides to help publishers improve the loading performance of their sites. The company also stressed that publishing meaningful and relevant content remains the most important ranking factor for gaining exposure in News Feed. Page load times will start being considered “in the coming months,” giving sites a short window of opportunity to optimise areas of their infrastructure.

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