I tend to keep a close eye on this site's performance, because I want to be nice to my readers and having a busy or slow-loading site simply isn't being nice. But I also have real-world concerns, namely, paying for the site's infrastructure; hosting by DigitalOcean, emails by Mailgun, and comments by Commento.io. I have to balance this desire to have a performant site with the need to pay for my infrastructure, and so far I thought I was doing a pretty good job. Lately, though, I'm not so sure.
I care about performance, and privacy. This is the primary reason why, earlier this year, I switched my comments engine from Disqus to Commento. Disqus, which was a great free option for comments, was including site tracker cookies and scripts that slowed my site to a crawl under many circumstances. Commento does none of those things, but it does have one big drawback: it is not free. I figured that was a price worth paying, to get rid of those damnable trackers.
Now, we are at the present, and I am faced with a similar situation. I am, or rather was, running Google AdSense Auto Ads on this site, for the simple reason that they are dead simple to set up and maintain. Flip the switch, include a single script file in your site, and boom, you're done.
All was not well, though. I started noticing that the site was markedly slower to respond to requests, especially if I had a poor connection. And then I began my own investigation into why the site "felt" slower, and the conclusions probably won't surprise you.
Let's jump straight to the scores. Here's the PageSpeed Insights score for a random post on this blog, first for a desktop device, then a mobile one. In these tests, AdSense is loaded to the page.
Look, 22 is BAD no matter how you spin it. This stuff matters to me; speed of the site is an important metric in SEO and engines like Google are now indexing mobile versions first, so I need to get this right. The desktop score of 68 is, frankly, not any better, because on a reasonable desktop machine it should be easy to get a high score. Desktop machines simply have way more power than their mobile counterparts.
So why were my scores so bad? The ads were slowing it down!
Here's the same page, run the same day, with the AdSense script no longer loaded to the page.
My desktop score improved by 29 points and the mobile score improved by a whopping 52! All because I decided not to have AdSense on this page.
IMPORTANT NOTE: These metrics are not precise. They are general, and prone to changing on a whim. They often change slightly from one test to the next. But, and this is important, I ran this test on the same page a bunch of times across several days, more than 10 times total both with and without Adsense, and the average improvement on the mobile side was 45 points, and on the desktop side was 26 points. There is a definite correlation here.
Advertising is strangling the web. I'm not the only one to notice.
To be clear, other advertising engines are not better, at least in my experience. For a very long time I used Carbon Ads, and for the most part they were great. But around the time I redesigned the site to have memberships, I started paying attention to site speed, and lo and behold Carbon was also slowing the site down considerably. It was one of the reasons I eventually moved back to Adsense.
But now I am forced to a difficult conclusion: having any advertising at all on the site brings with it a much slower loading speed, and worse performance. I'm fed up with it.
No More Ads!
Which is why, starting now, there will no longer be any traditional ads on my site. No AdSense, no Carbon, no anything. I'm sick of ads, sick of them bogging down every article I publish, sick of them intruding on my content so I can make $2 on a good day. No more.
But I still have those real-world concerns; namely, how am I going to pay for my hosting, emails, and comments? That's where you come in, dear readers. I am now fully dependent on you to help keep this site running, and available for all readers of all means to see and learn from.
You can help me in two ways. First, if you find an article that really helps you out with a problem, or is just a pleasure to read, you can buy me a coffee! This is a one-time thing, and I am greatly appreciative of anything you do. Click the bookmark below to check that out.
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Advertising is strangling the web, a "necessary evil" that's becoming more evil than necessary, and I'm very, very happy to be able to get rid of it. But I can only keep doing that if my dear readers continue to help me out. You can help me keep this site alive and available for everyone by becoming a paid subscriber today!