The term ‘social media’ has become a buzz word in recent years. With an explosion in the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter causing an ever growing number of web devs to integrate social media tools and widgets into their website. While this does give the user the ability to easily share interesting content with their friends (thus helping the websites traffic), it seems that many websites are experiencing an unfortunate side effect of all this- their site is slowing down and the addition of all these social networking widgets is making many sites look cluttered and messy.
While social media can indeed be beneficial to your site, driving more traffic and aiding in search engine optimisation (if done right!), an excessive amount of social media widgets will leave your site looking cluttered and unappealing to users. Yes, while having a pop-up box come up requesting that the user join a mailing list may increase the size of your mailing list, it will leave many users annoyed that they have to navigate past such widgets. Suddenly, the few extra contacts on your mailing list don’t seem so worth it in lieu of falling traffic, driven by dissatisfied former users. What is indeed more preferable, is a solution which doesn’t require the user to make more button clicks to get to the content that they want. A simple box to the side, in addition to being less likely to annoy your users, also means that your social media integration is more likely to get past ad-blockers and other spam fighting tools which are becoming increasingly common.
The effects of social media integration on websites isn’t merely superficial either, as it goes without saying that the more content on a page, the longer it takes to load. Unlike content hosted all on the same server, social media apps need to refer to the parent site, be it facebook, twitter or whatever other social media links exist on a site. Consequently, a site with heavy social media integration will take longer to load as it has to load data from several sites- something that impacts not only the users experience, but also affects search engine optimisation efforts. If a page takes long to load, Google realises this impacts upon the users a experience, and subsequently the search giant will penalise the site on their results page.
Thankfully, there are some steps that can be taken if you suspect that your site may be suffering these unintended side effects of social media…
• Get some feedback from users, preferably people who don’t have a sentimental attachment to your site. If they are finding your site slow or hard to navigate then there is probable cause for alarm
• Test your site’s speed: there are several great tools for this such as Google’s speed test tool and GT Metrix, which offers tips and advise on how to speed up your page
• Use software solutions such as Mouse Flow, which tracks users mouse movements while browsing your site. Ideally, movements should be direct and clear, anything resembling a heart rate monitor or a maze is a sure sign that the user is confused and can’t find what they are looking for
Social media integration is a good thing for SEO efforts- just don’t get too carried away!