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site speed a cautionary tale

Social sharing is a standard feature that you will find on most websites. It benefits both the end user and the website proprietor. Users can easily share interesting content with their friends and colleagues, whereas the websites themselves will benefit from increased exposure. Adding social sharing options can be cumbersome and time-consuming, which is why many website owners opt to implement a social sharing plugin to take care of this task. However, poorly constructed plugins can seriously slow down your website.

The Implications of Website Speed

The faster your website loads, the better it is for user experience. If your website users are happy, then so are search engines.

The average visitor does not have the patience to wait for a slow page to load. After a few seconds, they will be fretting and ready to go elsewhere. Improving loads times therefore results in:

  • Decreased bounce rate (visitors that click on your page and leave quickly without clicking anything).
  • Improved visitor satisfaction. If a visitor clicks on your site, but finds it slow and therefore somewhat irritating, they come away with a negative impression of your site.
  • Improved likelihood of ranking higher in the Search Engines. Page speed is a ranking factor that Google takes incredibly seriously. You can use Google's PageSpeed Analysis tool here.

How Slow Loading Times Affect Website Revenue

Having a slow loading website can seriously harm your revenue, as impatience sets in and exit rates soar. This infographic from Strangeloop says it all:

page speed infographic

What Is Slowing Your Site Down?

There are many elements that can slow your website down, and Siruss has been working to improve site speed for a number of clients recently. Our findings included the usual improvements such as cleaning up code, enabling compression on the server, etc. However, one thing stood out - we found that a popular social sharing plugin was consistently slowing down websites.

The ShareThis Plugin Is Slow

A well-known and used social media plugin is ShareThis. ShareThis, along with other social sharing plugins, enables users to share content with multiple social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google +. So with one click you can share a blog post with multiple sites. In theory this is a fantastic feature enabling you to easily reach a wider audience.

However, when we dug deeper, we could see that the plugin pulls in data from a large number of remote servers. Many of these "calls" are for advert and user habit tracking, nothing to do with the social media sites that you want to reach. So although they are sharing your information with the sites you requested, they also track user habit data and provide it to third parties.

At the time of writing, the plugin loads resources from 39(!!!) different locations:

  • w.sharethis.com (JavaScript, Image)
  • wd-edge.sharethis.com (JavaScript)
  • wd.sharethis.com (JavaScript)
  • w.sharethis.com (CSS)
  • l.sharethis.com (Image)
  • adadvisor.net (Image)
  • bcp.crwdcntrl.net (Image)
  • rc.rlcdn.com (JavaScript)
  • d.agkn.com (JavaScript)
  • secure-us.imrworldwide.com (JavaScript)
  • log.dmtry.com (JavaScript)
  • match.adsrvr.org (JavaScript)
  • wtp101.com (JavaScript)
  • adadvisor.net (Image)
  • p.brilig.com (Image)
  • e.nexac.com (Image)
  • su.addthis.com (Image)
  • rtd.tubemogul.com (Image)
  • d.p-td.com (Image)
  • ds.reson8.com (Image)
  • loadus.exelator.com (Image)
  • dp2.33across.com (Image)
  • p.nexac.com (Image)
  • p.raasnet.com (Image)
  • p.rfihub.com (Image)
  • i.w55c.net (Image)
  • loadm.exelator.com (Image)
  • a.triggit.com (Image)
  • sync.mathtag.com (Image)
  • r.casalemedia.com (Image)
  • dpm.demdex.net (Image)
  • idsync.rlcdn.com (Image)
  • load.s3.amazonaws.com (Image)
  • d.xp1.ru4.com (Image)
  • segments.adap.tv (Image)
  • dm.de.mookie1.com (Image)
  • ib.adnxs.com (Image)
  • tags.bluekai.com (Image)
  • sync.tidaltv.com (Image)

So what does this do to the speed of your site? Loading all of this rubbish really slows down your loading times.

Needless to say, we've stopped using the ShareThis plugin and have found alternatives.

Alternative Sharing Plugins

Here are some less resource-intensive social media sharing plugins. They may load user habit tracking, but not nearly as many as ShareThis:

Always Keep an Eye on Site Speed

Always keep an eye on the loading times of your website, as they severely impact user experience and Search Engine rankings. If your website is loading in less than 2 seconds, then you (and your traffic) should be happy! If not, Siruss can help optimise your website.

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