Although website speed has for a long time been seen as a “nice to have” for affiliate sites, Google’s increased emphasis on the importance of user experience means that affiliate sites need to focus on improving their website’s speed more than ever.
Here we will go through the specific reasons why affiliate marketers should focus on improving their website’s speed and look at the potential gains that affiliate sites can make from doing so.
Focusing On Site Speed Can Give Smaller Affiliates An Advantage Over Big Media Companies
Over the last few years, big media companies have become aware of the money that can be made in leveraging their authority to rank for affiliate keywords.
We can see evidence for this below by looking at what is ranking on the top page of Google for the affiliate keyword “best stainless steel frying pans”.
Now, what these larger sites have in authority and ability to churn out a large volume of content they lack in agility.
This means that site speed and other issues that require sitewide changes to troubleshoot often get neglected due to the amount that these companies stand to lose if such changes cause a mass dip in rankings.
Independently owned sites can make the sitewide changes necessary to improve site speed quickly.
Therefore if site speed is a significant ranking factor, and Google’s announcement of Core Web Vitals suggests that they do want to pay greater heed to promoting sites with good user experience, then this is one of the ways that smaller affiliate sites can gain an advantage when competing against bigger publishers.
This is particularly true when it comes to mobile traffic. Many of the bigger publishers try to funnel mobile visitors onto their app and therefore user experience for those who find their website via search on mobile.
Ensuring that your site offers a quality user experience for mobile visitors can therefore give you a significant competitive advantage over these types of sites.
Just going back to Core Web Vitals quickly, it’s worth mentioning that many of the big publishers that dominate the above SERP fare badly when it comes to Core Web Vitals (see Wirecutter’s steel pan roundup page below).
Although there are doubts about how meaningful Google’s PageSpeed Insights are, this does suggest that Core Web Vitals is an area where smaller publishers can gain an advantage over the big players.
A Slow Loading Website Can Lead To A Loss In Conversions, Especially For Affiliate Sites
We have all heard studies that link slow website loading times to lower conversion rates.
However, when we consider why longer loading times lead to a loss in conversions, we see that this detrimental effect can be amplified for less established affiliate sites.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone visiting your site. One of the reasons why someone will bounce off your site if it does not load immediately is because they do not trust that what they will find once they get to your website will be worth the wait.
For brands that are known to be an authority in whatever a user is searching, this is less of a problem. The strength of their brand should allow them the benefit of the doubt from a visitor if it takes longer than expected for the site to load.
Going back to the example of “best stainless steel frying pans”, visitors know that a site like The Food Network will likely be an authority on cooking and cookware related information. Therefore they will be willing to wait an extra few seconds to be presented with their page.
With smaller affiliate sites you are relying on making a good first impression to the majority of your visitors. Therefore every detail of a user’s experience matters.
Affiliate Sites Rely On Images And Data Visualisation To Maximise Conversions
One of the main reasons why many affiliate sites end up struggling with site speed is that you cannot make a high-quality product review, roundup, or buying guide without incorporating rich media elements such as images of the product and comparison tables of their features and benefits.
Although these visual elements do not have to significantly slow down the speed of a page, the more of these elements that you add to a page the greater the risk that site performance will be affected.
In general, affiliate marketers will sacrifice more conversions if they remove images, tables, and other interactive features from their pages than if their loading time is slowed down by a second or two.
Site owners therefore need to be extra diligent in making sure that they do the basics right in maximizing their website speed to ensure that they can keep the visual elements on their page without drastically increasing the amount of time that it takes for these pages to load.
Adverts Will Slow Your Site Down Further
Once your affiliate site starts getting a decent amount of traffic you will have the opportunity to monetize it with advertising as well as with affiliate offers.
While you shouldn’t turn down this monetization method, you should be aware that ads will almost always slow your website down. This slowing down can be drastic if you use an ad network to deliver the adverts to maximize your RPM.
Although there are ways to reduce the impact that ads have on your site speed, you want your site to be fast enough for ads to not hinder user experience before you opt for this method of monetization.
This, again, comes down to doing the basics of site speed optimization correctly to give your website a strong foundation to support these relatively cumbersome features without slowing everything down to a crawl.
Conclusion: Getting The Basics Right With Site Speed Should Put You Ahead Of The Competition
Affiliate marketers should focus on getting the basics right to make sure that their website loads quickly in order to support the rich media elements that convert visitors and to gain a competitive advantage over bigger publishers with bloated websites.
Affiliate marketers do not need to become coding experts to put this firm foundation in place. Hosting your website on the fastest hosting provider and using a Content Delivery Network can go a long way to ensuring your website is fast enough to ensure a quality user experience.
You can find an excellent guide to speeding up your website for non-techies here.
This article was written by John Wright, the Co-Founder and CEO of affiliate marketing software Statsdrone.