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How +1 and Like Buttons Steal Your Visitors and What You Can Do About It

Wrote on September 20, 2011

Time matters…

Google +1 and Facebook Like buttons increase your page’s load time. Research shows that each additional second can cost you literally tens of percents of potential visitors. Our findings that adding the Google +1 button can increase load time by almost a full second is therefore significant. Moreover, Google ranking algorithm takes page load time into account and landing page load time affects the Adwords quality score.

A Facebook Like button or rectangle with friends’ faces is considered standard these days as well. In our experiment we focused on measuring the effects of these social elements on page load time. We repeatedly measured page load times on four web sites (with three different hosting providers) using the online services tools.pingdom.com, gtmetrix.com a siteloadtest.com.

We averaged the results to find the mean effect on time from click to display when Facebook and Google +1 buttons are displayed. We measured load time for the Facebook button (inserted as iframe) showing friends’ faces, without faces, with an additional Google +1 button and then with the +1 button on its own, comparing it to load time without any of these social buttons.

The graphs below show our results:

The measurements have shown that a Google +1 button on its own had the least effect on load time, while Facebook Like showing friends’ faces understandably added the most.

What is to be done?

 

Following the recent launch of Google+, bloggers began sharing solutions to improve the load speed of the Google+ button or prevent the page from slower loading. Most of them drew on Google Page Speed recommendations for webmasters. Asynchronous Javascript loading and linking through HTTPS became a part of the updated code for G+ button inclusion, increasing the website speed. While the asynchronous function is only supported in Chrome and Firefox 3.6+, it does not negatively effect browsers that do not support it. When Javascript is loaded in this manner, its position (header, footer) no longer matters. Analogous system us used in the Google Analytics tracking code implementation.

In addition to XFBML and IFRAME, the Facebook Like button offers an HTML5 implementation with the support of above-mentioned asynchronous Javascript loading.

A few days ago support for Google +1 button on mobile devices has been added. Until now Javascript had to be edited to display the button to avoid wasteful HTTP connection usage. This is now supported on mobile devices using Android 2.1+ and iOS 4.0+.

The easiest ways to further speed up sites using Google +1 and Facebook Like buttons are:

  • turning off the Google +1 and Facebook Like counters
  • turning off faces for Facebook Like
  • only displaying social buttons if new content is shown

Efforts at making sites faster with respect to social buttons load time represent only one of the areas of page speed optimisation. If you use multiple Javascripts, the NBL Javascript for global asynchronous loading of scripts may be useful.

There is much more room to improve various aspects of website performance and we are happy to help!

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