Many B2B companies use social media plugins on their websites to increase engagement and sharing of their content. According to AddThis, 14 million domains use the AddThis social plugin; another 2 million publisher sites use the ShareThis plugin. In fact, one of the three largest B2B companies in the United States (in terms of revenue) uses AddThis across its website.

Social Media Plugins & Site Speed

However, what users of these plugins might not know is that these tools can significantly increase page load speed. For instance, on one major project that my firm recently launched, the primary landing page of the site (and the most popular page overall), had three instances of social sharing buttons.

Each instance included a Google Plus button, a Facebook “Like” button, and a Twitter “Tweet” button. That added up to about 400 kb of page load and 40 server requests. To put this into context, the entire page was 1,000 kb and had 68 total server requests.

The major search engines, including Google, have identified page load speed as an SEO ranking factor. Even before the age of mobile, page load has had a very real and direct impact on user behavior. The heavier the page, the less likely your users will stick around.

Do You Need A Social Sharing Plugin?

You want users to engage with your content and share it while keeping your page as light as possible. But, how do you determine if you need a social engagement tool?

Start by measuring and analyzing visitor engagement on your site. Look at which sections of your site are seeing the heaviest usage of these sharing tools so you can determine where they are most needed.

You may find that a social sharing plugin is unnecessary on certain sections of your site. For example, are your press releases really the kind of content a visitor is likely to share? Do you really want to encourage sharing of the Help page? If the answer is no, think twice before installing a plugin tool.

Be sure to monitor the use of the social media engagement buttons you’ve installed, especially on your blog. Are your blog articles actually being shared? If so, is it due to these buttons? If not, remove them to improve your user experience. After all, if your content is not being shared, the social sharing buttons on your site might indicate “0 likes” or “0 tweets” — not the message that you want your blog to send.

Alternatives To Social Sharing Plugins

If you have looked at your analytics and determined that the social sharing buttons are not worth the drag on page load speed, there are alternatives. For faster page loads, instead of using a social plug-in, explore linking directly to your company’s social media profiles.

For example GE, one of the three largest B2B companies in the United States, uses custom icons that link directly to the brand’s social media profiles and are in line with the overall visual design.

ge-screen-zoom-to-social-media-570x270

If you want to have share links related to a particular piece of content, there are ways to create those links so they are just plain links. Three alternatives include:

These links can be styled in any way you see fit. Because they are regular links rather than cumbersome buttons, they have a much smaller impact on your site’s performance.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: SEO

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About The Author: is the Vice President of Search Engine Marketing and Content Strategy at RepEquity in Washington, DC. Ms. Harris has 13 years of SEO and PPC experience, and has helped numerous companies, including Hilton Worldwide, Edmunds.com and Carfax Vehicle History Reports, build their online presence. Her clients at RepEquity include eBay, UNICEF, PhRMA and South Carolina.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • Gridlock

    This also seems relevant, if a bit left field:

    https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/03/changes_to_the.html

  • neotrope

    YES! As part of our 2014 site revamp we did exactly that ; we’re using the Font Awesome 3.2x set of icons linked directly to our social media sites, and for AddThis we moved to buttons only without the like/share or “xx shares” elements, and got PageSpeed up to 95 Google/93 YSlow and haven’t fully minified the CSS. This is on complex HELP/FAQs page with images, branding logos, etc. (500kb page, technically with all the crap from Bootstrap, et al). CDN really helps, too, btw. :-)

  • Darren Cottingham

    Removing social buttons that indicate likes/shares might speed up page load, but does Google ‘read’ these numbers and use them as an indication of how popular an article is, and is that a ranking factor? I.e. if you have 20 Facebook likes of your article, does Google see the number 20 (seeing as it can’t tell from within Facebook itself), and give that some kind of ‘popularity’ value that would make your article rank over an equivalent article that only had 2 likes (all other things being equal). So, would you be improving one metric (page speed) at the expense of another (perceived popularity). Also, why would any decent webmaster leave a page at zero likes/shares – I mean, at least share it yourself!

  • http://www.myonlinetraininghub.com/ Philip Treacy

    You should use Socialite.js to load your social sharing icons/code after your page has completed loading. This way you don’t delay page load time. http://socialitejs.com/ or check this page to see how the social icons aren’t loaded loaded until the page has completed http://www.myonlinetraininghub.com/30-chants-for-better-excel-charts

  • http://www.myonlinetraininghub.com/ Philip Treacy

    You should use Socialite.js to load your social sharing icons/code after your page has completed loading. This way you don’t delay page load time. http://socialitejs.com/ or check this page to see how the social icons aren’t loaded loaded until the page has completed http://www.myonlinetraininghub.com/30-chants-for-better-excel-charts

  • neotrope

    I doubt Google would read the “shares” and “likes” as a true metric of popularity since the “buy likes” businesses can totally game that data, including software, robots, etc. — perhaps keeping that data on an “article” might be useful, but it’s not remotely accurate as it doesn’t take into account things like massive re-tweets or the “audience” seen by that ‘verse of peeps.

    Would be an interesting question to pose to Matt Cutts or whomever, as to whether those elements are even tracked.

  • Darren Cottingham

    I wouldn’t expect it would be a major signal, but you’re right about it being an interesting question to Matt Cutts (probably one he wouldn’t want to verify because of the possibility that buying likes would become more prevalent.
    If Google does track it, it would have to be normalised against Analytics data and industry benchmarks to make it fair.
    It’s probably more of a signal to people reading the article that at least someone else cares enough to flex their index finger slightly and click that share button.

  • smiro2000

    This looks very promising and takes asynchronous loading to the next step by loading it on-demand when you over over it.
    And it’s open source!

  • neotrope

    For those using AddThis, simply use the “async” method and this solves any load time issues. Same with G+, etc. We load jquery async off our CDN, then defer loading of minified single js file for all assets. Your mileage may vary. But I’ll check out socialite as that might be useful for some things, depending on how it works. :-)

  • Tim

    “… what users of these plugins might not know is that these tools can significantly increase page load speed…”

    Shouldn’t the sentence read “…increase page load times”?

    Think so. :-)

  • Chris

    Try using cloudflare, i had problems with these plugins and set up cloudflare and site speed went from mid 4′s and 5s to below 2 seconds.

  • Chris

    Try using cloudflare, i had problems with these plugins and set up cloudflare and site speed went from mid 4′s and 5s to below 2 seconds.

 

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