Why Every Marketer Should Care About the Speed of Their Video Player

February 14, 2018

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Jordan Wellin


Maybe it’s because we’re in full Olympics mode, but we’ve been thinking a lot about speed lately (and not just in the context of speed skating).

Think about your current website. If you’re maximizing your business’s potential to connect with your audience, then your site probably includes a video or two somewhere on your pages. When visitors come to your site, what they’re expecting are speed and consistency — the same user experience regardless of whether they’re surfing in the comfort of their home with a speedy WiFi connection, or on the subway with a less reliable data connection.

In other words, they’re looking for a cross-country skiing experience: smooth, fast, and predictable, not anything akin to a skier holding on for dear life as they descend the moguls (ok, we’ve really been watching too much Olympics coverage).

But they’ll also leave your website if that experience is slow or sloppy, which means your business will ultimately suffer. Fortunately, the current Wistia player is optimized to give you and your site visitors the ultimate experience in speed and flexibility. Because we take player speed really seriously, we’re constantly looking for ways to make sure our player loads faster. And while we can’t say too much about it just yet, that loading speed is about to get even better — stay tuned in the coming weeks!

But there’s more to the design of a player than simply offering a speedy and delightful user experience. In fact, the player you choose — and how quickly it loads — has a substantial impact on how many people discover your site.

Speed meets its match

At the most basic level, if your videos are hosted on a player that doesn’t prioritize speed, your site is going to face an uphill battle in terms of how it ranks in search results. If you use Wistia, you’re probably aware of how we do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of video SEO. But there’s a separate component that’s not as frequently discussed: how your SEO is impacted by the speed at which your video player loads, especially on mobile devices.

If your videos are hosted on a player that doesn’t prioritize speed, your site is going to face an uphill battle in terms of how it ranks in search results.

After last month’s announcement by Google that page speed would play an even larger role in how the company ranks results, it was clear that sites not prioritizing speed would quickly fall behind. Speed and SEO would be inseparably linked, for better or for worse.

“It’s becoming a huge correlating factor,” said Phil Nottingham, Wistia’s in-house SEO expert. “Google has been explicit that they’re about to start heavily devaluing slow pages in mobile search results.”

In short, the quicker your site, the better your chances of ranking for competitive queries, especially for mobile searches. And if you’re getting bogged down by a slow-loading player, you’re wasting away precious chances at reaching a larger audience. “Simply put, if you want to rank better, you need a lightweight video player that doesn’t block other elements of page load,” Phil said.

It’s all about the player

Ready to get technical? One of the pieces that slows down video player loading times is unnecessary script, something you’ll find in ad-saturated players like YouTube. That extra script slows down your site and decreases performance.

Even if you’re using YouTube to host your videos but not running ads, you’re still losing out to script that’s taking up unnecessary time, data, and bandwidth — something you won’t find with the Wistia player. “The advantage [of the Wistia player] is that it’s lightweight, fast, and provides all the detail you want, without anything you don’t want,” Phil said.

“The advantage [of the Wistia player] is that it’s lightweight, fast, and provides all the detail you want, without anything you don’t want.”

Another benefit of the Wistia player? It doesn’t fully load until everything else on the page has. Because of this asynchronous loading sequence, the overall page loading time isn’t affected, let alone hampered.

“Our number one goal is to be fast,” said Max Schnur, Principal Engineer at Wistia. “We want the player to be blazing fast, and we want it to stay that way.” (Once again, dropping hints at what’s to come for player speed in the near future… getting excited yet?)

One element that Max and his team have perfected is something that’s not evident on the page or the player, yet still has a lasting impact on how visitors experience your site. When you arrive on a page that contains a Wistia-hosted video, your browser loads the JavaScript that’s needed for the player to function. Once loaded, that script is cached in your browser, so it won’t have to reload when another Wistia-hosted video is played. In short, every subsequent video you watch will load even faster than the first one. Pretty neat, right?

You may not understand all the intricate details involved with browsers and scripts and loading times. But rest assured that Wistia has done the hard work in advance to make sure every video on your site loads dazzlingly quick.

Speedier site, happier customers

In the mobile-first world we live in, it’s never been more important to keep your visitors (and their ever-dwindling attention spans) on your site. Is anyone going to wait around for your videos to load when they could be browsing other sites in the meantime? Probably not, as the latest research from Google hints at:

The average time it takes to fully load a mobile landing page is 22 seconds, according to a new analysis. Yet 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load. That’s a big problem.

“Think about it this way: If your sites suffers from additional loading time, the drop-off rate is like the edge of a cliff, and it’s ever-expanding as people become more impatient,” Phil said. And if your site takes too long to load? They’re gone for good.

But there is hope in the midst of all the hand-wringing about slow loading speeds and impatient visitors. Being rigorous about your site speed — and that includes selecting a player that prioritizes your video player speed — ensures that you won’t lose the people you’ve worked so hard to get to your page.

“Site speed compounds everything,” Phil added. “It makes people visit more pages, it means you rank higher in searches — it just improves everything.” That includes your customers’ and visitors’ happiness. And at the end of the day, more than anything, isn’t that what it’s all about?

February 14, 2018

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Jordan Wellin


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