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Third party content including analytics, ads, social media feeds, images, video and widgets have become an increasingly common and important element of most successful websites. The problem is that each of these cause a significant increase in page load time. Your company is probably optimizing your own website's performance, but you're actually much more likely to find greater gains by rectifying the delays caused by your website's third party content before it impacts your customers and revenue.

Third party content aims to make a website more interesting. YouTube videos, Google Maps and Facebook widgets all help retain visitor interest, but research shows that any delays to a website's page load time results in higher visitor abandonment rates and significantly reduced revenue.

Google measured the impact of third-party content on page load time and found:

  • Applications such as Digg, Facebook Connect, BoldChat, and Twitter widgets had a profound effect. (Source: Google)
  • Google identified AdSense, Friend Connect, and Tribal Fusion apps as being responsible for 12.8%, 30%, and 53% (respectively) of the total page load time.

In a separate research project Bing and Google collaborated to investigate the impact of page load delays. They reported that delays as small as 0.4 seconds reduced people's usage of a site and also found that a page load delay of a tiny 0.5 seconds reduced Bing's revenue by a staggering 4.3%. (Source: Google and Bing)

The inference is that if the third party content of your website is responsible for a page load delay of more than 0.5 seconds, it is likely to cost you a significant number of website visitors, and considerably reduce the revenue from your remaining visitors.

It's not an option for most companies to simply remove third party components. However, businesses that are serious about their online content and sales can easily identify which third party components are causing errors and delays, and thereafter optimize them to gain dramatic upside in their website revenue.

Organizations need both API and real browser monitoring in order to identify the problematic components.

API monitoring verifies the performance of the numerous APIs such as Yahoo Maps, PayPal transactions, UPS logistic, Salesforce, Yahoo Search, Foursquare, and others to identify any slow or malfunctioning APIs.

Real browser monitoring is an essential new style of monitoring. Today's web pages are often built on the fly by JavaScript executing in the user's browser and therefore errors cannot be detected using standard monitoring. By contrast, real browser monitoring identifies the order in which content is loaded, executes the JavaScript and verifies the complete page load time, thereby accurately identifying issues as real users experience them.

For a quick test of the load time of your site with real browsers in 30+ countries the "Loads.in" tool at loads.in is very convenient.

It's also important to consider that third party content is often 'browser specific'; each browser loads website components in a different order so the real browser monitors you use need to cover a selection of browser profiles (e.g. Internet Explorer, Safari, FireFox, and Chrome), and provide a step-by-stop breakdown and waterfall chart for each check.

It is critical to identify load time delays as your clients truly experience them in order to optimize the performance of a website across browsers and locations. To do this, both API and real browser monitors should be run from monitoring stations in locations that align with your company's client base. That is to say, if you service clients in Europe and India, make sure your monitors run from monitoring stations located in these geographies.

And, with a complete breakdown of your customers' website experience, your business can ensure that the appropriate content loads first to maintain the attention of your visitors. Fast and relevant online content should result in satisfied visitors who truly "Digg" your work!

Simone Maier is Product Marketing Manager for WatchMouse, a company that monitors website, applications, and services 24x7 from over 50 locations worldwide and delivers detailed insight about their performance, uptime, and functionality. Inspired by the dashboards of Amazon and Google, WatchMouse introduced Public Status Pages (PSP) in early 2010. Companies like Twitter, Mozilla, WordPress, Wikipedia and many more use this product to be even more transparent to their customers, users and developers.