March 18, 2008, 12:00 AM

New Gomez service tests landing page performance

Gomez introduced the service in response to an announcement by Google that it would penalize advertisers whose landing pages load slowly. Those advertisers will have to pay more to maintain their positions on Google search results pages.

Gomez Inc. has announced a new service that will test landing page performance in response to Google’s plan to penalize advertisers whose initial page loads slowly after a user clicks on a search results page ad.

Gomez is offering a free site that can test how quickly landing pages load when an ad is clicked on by users in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London and Beijing. Advertisers who sign up for Gomez’s web-monitoring service can test their pages from 35,000 locations and customize the testing, for instance testing only during the day for advertisers that do not serve up ads at night, says William Agush, vice president of marketing. Gomez, which specializes in monitoring web site performance, charges a subscription fee based on number of tests.

Google announced this month that it would begin taking into account landing page performance as it scores paid search ads placed through its AdWords program. A lower score means an ad is placed further down on a Google search results page or that the advertiser has to pay more for a better spot. Google explained in a March 6 posting on its AdWords blog that it was taking the step to improve user experience and advertiser conversion rates.

Google said it would give advertisers a month to improve landing page performance before taking it into account when determining an ad’s quality score, which determines price and position. “Keywords with landing pages that load very slowly may get lower Quality Scores (and thus higher minimum bids),” wrote Vivian of Google’s Inside AdWords team in the post. “Conversely, keywords with landing pages that load very quickly may get higher Quality Scores and lower minimum bids.”

Per its usual practice, Google did not define what constitutes slow or fast. Agush of Gomez says a landing page should load within a few seconds. “Landing pages should load faster than home pages, because home pages tend to have a lot of rich content,” Agush says. “A landing page is meant to gain conversion from an offer that someone has clicked through. It should load fast.”

Google is only likely to penalize “really badly slow pages,” Alan Rimm-Kaufman, president and chief technology officer at Rimm-Kaufman Group LLC, an online marketing and web site testing consulting firm, writes in a blog. He adds that Google has said it will inform advertisers whose quality scores are lowered by slow landing times.

There are several ways to speed up landing page loading, Rimm-Kaufman says. These include improving database performance on common requests, caching certain page components such as ratings and reviews to minimize database queries and adding more memory and faster systems.


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