Facebook will rank links to slow-loading pages lower in people’s news feeds

Facebook’s algorithm will estimate how long it takes a page to load from its mobile app and use that information when ranking people’s feeds.

Facebook’s latest tweak to its news feed algorithm will penalize links to slow-loading web pages and could push more brands and publishers to adopt the social network’s proprietary Instant Articles format.

Facebook plans to start estimating how long it takes for a web page to load from its mobile app and will use that estimate when ranking how high or low a link to that page should appear in people’s news feeds, according to a leaked draft of a company blog post. A screenshot of the blog post is embedded at the bottom of this article. Update: Facebook officially published the blog post shortly after this article was posted.

“Factors such as the person’s current network connection and the general speed of the corresponding web page will be considered. If signals indicate the web page will load quickly, the link to that web page might appear higher in your feed,” Facebook engineers Jiayi Wen and Shengbo Guo wrote in the company blog post announcing the change that will roll out “gradually over the coming months.”

Sites with slow-loading pages are likely to see their reach decrease on Facebook and their traffic from Facebook diminish, according to the blog post. No surprise there, especially for brands and publishers that already experienced this in 2010, when Google’s search algorithm started officially using site speed as a ranking factor.

For sites worried about being hit by Facebook’s latest algorithm update, Facebook is publishing a “best practices” guide, which also leaked and was also published shortly after this article, that offers steps sites can take to reduce page-load speeds, as well as a list of tools that sites can use to check their speeds. Or sites could just convert their pages to Facebook’s fast-loading, mobile-only Instant Articles format, an option that Facebook surprisingly doesn’t take the opportunity to promote in the guide or the blog post announcing the algorithm change.

A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email asking how Facebook will estimate web pages’ loading speeds and what signals the company will use in making those estimates, such as how many ads are on a page or how many photos or videos a page contains.

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