Why Server Response Time Is Everything in 2018

In early 2018, Facebook made another big announcement regarding its ever-changing algorithm. This time, it was a shift to prioritize content from family and friends instead of publishers. While the news wrought chaos in the digital world, here at RebelMouse, we ultimately believe this is a good thing for organic growth and social ROI. But neither can be achieved without a speedy site.


Facebook wants fast, mobile experiences that will keep their users happy and coming back to the platform. A core measurement to deduce a site's speed is server response time, the amount of time it takes a server to respond to a browser request. It's something that will make or break your user experience, and it's the crux of building organic loyalty.

The importance of user experience has moved up the ranks in digital publishing over the last several years, and it's something our strategists have been tracking for just as long. With the rise of ad blocking, the birth of mobile experience formats like Facebook Instant Articles and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and the fake news fallout, the need for a quality experience on the internet is more than overdue.

This latest Facebook change brings the next chapter into a hopefully improved digital world. The algorithm shift means your website has to be not only chock-full of good content, but it has to be fast and ignite conversations worthy of repeat visits.

Why Server Response Time Is so Important

Facebook cares a lot about page speed. If a user is going to leave its platform via an external link, the site they're headed to must be perfect — meaning no slow load times due to ad overload. Server response time is a deep measure of how professionally a site was built, which means publishers can no longer buy placement into the News Feed with mediocre sites and experiences.

For instance, if your site has a slow response time, you can't take advantage of Facebook Instant Articles, which can go viral more easily, creating opportunities for meaningful monetization. If your content isn't using Instant Articles and is hosted on a slow site, you won't even get a chance to make it into the News Feed. So not only will your slow response time turn away traffic, you'll miss out on gaining any new traffic.

It's not just Facebook either. Google has long factored in site speed into its PageRank algorithm for desktop experiences, and recently announced that it's about to do the same for mobile. This latest news is now threatening some of the biggest sites on the internet.

What Your Server Response Time Should Look Like

In 2018, media doesn't have the profit margins for big tech teams. There's no purpose in spending money on expensive developers and UX designers. Publishers need to focus on quality content first, and let that become their product.

At RebelMouse, we offer our clients lean tech with global support from a skilled team of developers and designers. And because we're a centralized CMS, our platform is constantly updating and iterating with little-to-no management requirements from our clients, leaving you to focus on creating great content instead. We're a creative agency that blurs the lines between product and strategy roles, always optimizing for viral growth and, perhaps most importantly, speed.

This is what our server response time looks like for some of our clients:

Azula

One Country

How to Make Your Server Response Time Better

There are a lot of reasons RebelMouse powers crazy-fast content. We've built some of the fastest new media companies ever, like The Dodo and Axios. While our passion is for viral content and consistent organic growth, we know neither of these things are possible without a fast-loading experience built around conversation building and repeat business.

So let's start working together. Even if it's not the right time for you to re-platform to a new CMS, we can help you optimize your site's content for speed. We offer a number of strategy services within our creative agency to set your site up for success.

Why RebelMouse Is the Best Content Marketing Platform

RebelMouse is a unique platform and company. The company was founded on the vision that media companies would need an always-modern solution to thrive in the new connected internet, and that brands would have to behave like new media companies and use the same platforms.

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At RebelMouse, we've solved this in a very elegant way. At the core level of our platform, we can natively render different layouts and track the exact differences in performance when comparing a test to your other layouts.

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Building Premium Communities and User Journeys on RebelMouse

RebelMouse is much more than just a replacement for a traditional CMS. Our platform is a tremendous community-building experience. Today's social ecosystem has given us a seemingly limitless number of premium creators who understand how to create gorgeous and relevant content that drives the growth of their own audiences. These creators and influencers are either experts in certain topics, or heavily engaged in targeted content that drives their interests. They're not only consuming the content they're passionate about, but they're contributing to the conversation, too. The new role of the editor is not just to cover the most important topics and people around their expertise, but also to invite those preferred influencers into their community and get them to participate in creating premium content.

Read our deck here...

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Dynamic Voting: Grow Traffic and Engagement Organically

Help your audience find its voice.

Creating quality content is no longer on marketers alone. We live in a universe of creators who are willing to not only consume content that resonates, but play a role in the creation, promotion, and conversations surrounding it.

Since the start of RebelMouse, we've been on a journey to create dynamic media that is easier for content creators to curate and amplify on social. It's why we've built an online engagement platform centered around the power of communities that thrive naturally in the digital ecosystem.

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A Modern Story of Web Performance From RebelMouse Founder + CEO Andrea Breanna

If I had more time, this website would have loaded faster

In the first months of 2020, we've focused at RebelMouse on page speed and performance. We worked very hard and found ways to take 90% of the sites we power to 90+ performance scores via Google's PageSpeed Insights tool — even with sites that are loaded with ads, embeds, third-party analytics, and other typical slow-loading elements. You can read more about our victories here.

A few months after we started this process, COVID-19 hit the world very hard. Suddenly, every media company was faced with a huge problem: Advertising fell off a cliff in what seemed like seconds. The only way to survive this unprecedented downturn is to grow traffic and control costs at the same time. So we started to shave our code and made our websites faster. We dropped costs just as dramatically as we were increasing scores.

Here are some surprises we found when doing this: If you want truly exceptional performance, none of the JavaScript and CSS frameworks that developers love so much make the cut. We thought the React version of RebelMouse was going to be the huge page speed breakthrough, until we realized the only way to achieve this goal was to write the code carefully and refactor it endlessly until it was as short as possible. As any author will tell you, like editing a book or a blog post, the revision process is never really done. By stepping away from frameworks, and methodically shaving vanilla code, our customers continue to see major improvements in performance.

As we announced this to our site network and rolled it out publicly, many of our clients asked me personally, "How did you do it?" The answer is easy to understand regardless of how technical you may be. It's perfectly summarized in this wonderful quote attributed to Mark Twain:

"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."
—Blaise Pascal, 1657 (and later, more famously Mark Twain)

The universe is sometimes very beautiful, and especially when you keep it simple. If you would like to start publishing on a site optimized for both speed and sustainability, request a proposal and let's start working together.

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Small and medium-sized news organizations producing original content about the COVID-19 pandemic for their local communities could be eligible for money from Google.

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