Speed Traps – Remove the Social Buttons and Improve Conversions

Slow blue car
Are all your social media buttons stalling your site performance?

Social media sharing buttons are one of the biggest drags on any website’s performance, so removing them altogether may significantly increase your business.

Many sensible online marketers know that speed (fast loading web pages) has a direct correlation to conversion rates and revenue. Even Google penalizes slow loading sites in the search rankings.

Yet whenever you start looking at what’s slowing down your site, inevitably it’s all those third party plugins and scripts, especially the social media sharing scripts that are the biggest offenders.

So should you just do away with them altogether? From a speed, conversion and customer experience perspective the answer is a clear ‘Yes”.

However, we’ve been so conditioned that social media sharing is somehow an essential part of our website’s experience and online marketing that just getting our heads around this idea may be a big ask.

Until now.

Sweep the Sleaze

Recently several commentators have been questioning the need for these buttons.

Oliver Reichenstein in a piece called Sweep the Sleaze makes a compelling argument against the need for these buttons Sweep the Sleaze

Smashing Magazine boasted that they removed the social buttons and got an actual increase in social sharing. Smashing Magazine drops social buttons

Smashing mag

And .net magazine also ran a piece on them. Why you should drop the social media buttons

Also, the actual impact of social media on business has long been argued.

This latest piece by Melbourne Business School professor Mark Ritson in the Sydney Morning Herald sums up the dilemma over social media Underwhelming social media for business..

Maybe hard for some of us to swallow, but for the moment let’s just look at the performance angle.

Try it Yourself

Intrigued by the argument I decided to do my own testing. I created a test page by copying my blog home page, and then removed all the third party scripts except for the analytics tracking code.

The results were astonishing. By removing all the third party sharing buttons I reduced my load time by 70%. Or, to put it in more startling perspective: I increased my speed by roughly 300%.

From a user experience point of view that’s going to make a huge difference in engagement and interaction, and isn’t that what online business is all about?

It’s far more important to have a user engaged on your site and converting than it is to have them liking or tweeting your page. (And, as those articles point out, they will share your stuff anyway if they like it.)

The Need for Speed

As I said at the start, the effect that fast loading pages has on your online business is well documented.

1 second delay costs $1.68 billion a year

Blink and you'll lose a customer

Slow sites kill sales

Not Just Buttons, Get Rid of All Plugins

However, it’s not just the social sharing buttons which are problematic. These days many sites are overloaded with third party plugins and all sorts of marketing tracking scripts.

There are plugins for forms, for signups, bars at the top or bottom of your pages, you may also like plugins, tracking etc etc.

This is especially true if you have a Wordpress site or any of the thousands of similar hosted website applications that rely on plugins for enhanced functionality.

In short, many of us are like addicts addicted to our plugins without realising that they may be killing the health of our websites.

And even if we do know, giving them up may not be easy.

Even though I got great results in my own test, I still haven’t removed all the offending slow coaches from the rest of my pages. I probably will, but don’t rush me.

Anyway, If you really want the functionality that some of these plugins deliver, then it’s really not that hard for your local programmer to come up with solution you can host yourself.

You can have your cake and eat it too for just a few extra dollars.

Users Want Fast Sites but Retailers Won’t Give it to Them

In just about every survey done over the past 20 years on what users want from websites, the number one thing is always fast loading pages.

Despite this, websites today are slower than they were years ago, and this is despite most of us having faster connections.

Even among the top online retailers, most of their sites are slower.

Sites slower today than two years ago - Venture Beat

Impatient web users flee sites - New York Times

slow top sites

While this may seem as marketing madness, it should not be surprising. Many businesses continually demonstrate a willingness to do the things that don’t work and ignore the things that do.

This is why online conversion rates have remained stubbornly around 2-4% for the past two decades.

Fixes Standards Compliance Issues Too

As much as third party scripts play havoc with your site speed, they do an even worse hatchett job on your W3C and accessibility compliance goals. Rewriting Facebook and Google's code is probably not everyone's idea of fun.

So, if you just get rid of the buttons, most of your compliance issues evaporate. This option is looking more and more attractive.

Do You Want to be Popular or Profitable? – Your Choice

So whaddya think? Are you willing to give up all your third party extras? Will that give you a performance boost that impacts your bottom-line? As always test it for yourself and see what results you get.

Summing Up

See also: How to speed up your site

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