FACEBOOK IS FORCING advertisers to improve their websites. This is a shameless way for Facebook to serve itself—and thank goodness it’s happening.
As Facebook announced this week, if an advertiser’s website is slow, its ads won’t show up as frequently on the world’s most popular social network. And soon, its ads won’t even show up when people visit Facebook on a slow Internet connection. If people click on your ad on a slow Internet connection and your page is slow, they’ll just get annoyed. And if that happens enough, people will flee Facebook.
But we applaud Mark Zuckerberg and company—just as we applauded Google for making similar moves. In April of last year, the search giant tweaked its algorithms so that mobile-friendly sites appeared more prominently on its search engine. The mobile web needs to speed up, and advertising giants like Google and Facebook have the power to make that happen.
Facebook pushing advertisers to create better mobile sites creates a virtuous circle for Facebook, says Debbie Williamson, a principal analyst for market research firm eMarketer. When mobile sites get faster, Facebookers are less annoyed when they click on ads. They’re more likely to use Facebook. And in the end, Facebook makes more money. But beyond this, everyone is happier. Advertisers get more clicks. And, most importantly, the web is improved for all of us.
The flip-side is that Facebook is also pushing to keep everything on Facebook, without the web ever playing a role. The company says it will soon “prefetch” content on advertiser websites to help their load times get faster—something it already does for publisher websites. (Advertisers, however, don’t get opt-in or opt-out options; it’s an automatic feature). And Facebook is promoting services that can help people optimize their operations on Facebook itself, so that people needn’t exit to the web. That can be a good thing too. Less friction, and all that. But as Goldberg points out, advertisers may end up spending a bunch of money on Facebook-specific stuff. That means they’re beholden to Facebook, and the money they spend won’t help on other services.
So, though we applaud Facebook, we urge advertisers to look at the whole equation.