News has struck the SEO industry. The speed of a website now officially has an effect on its Google search engine rankings. It has been speculated that Google was going to implement this factor into its complicated 200-factor algorithm for a long time, but this is still a major shock to most internet marketing professionals.
According to the official Google Webmaster Central Blog, it is important to speed up your site. I agree. A faster site will leave visitors satisfied and on your site for a longer period of time. Users do put a lot of value on speed, but does it make sense to rank websites on their speed? It just seems like a lateral move to me.
What Others Are Saying
Most webmasters feel the same way. Out of the 140 comments to the post, most of them are webmasters complaining about this change. One commenter shared a similar opinion to mine. My additions to the comment are italicized.
I do not think that this is a solid idea. What about sites that post lots of photos on their pages or use complex services that take longer to load? What about all the sites that use advertisement? They obviously load slower than a plain HTML site. And a plain HTML site obviously is less interactive and probably less useful to searchers. Great job, Google – you just leaned your top search results toward useless websites. 🙁
It would be nice if Google would add more transparency to the new signal, including if a website’s rankings are affected by its loading time (in webmaster tools for instance). Great idea, but even if it was implemented, it wouldn’t make up for basing search results on the speed of a website, even in the slightest.
You guys hopefully look at the connection speeds and origins of visitors as well. A website with lots of Indian users for instance will likely have slower speeds reported than a website with Japanese or Swedish users. Are those factors included in the calculation? Another great idea, but I don’t think Google is capable doing this without drawing legal attention.
How can a webmaster check to see if a recent ranking drop (say on April 1) is related to that new factor? I think Google should extend this so that whenever a site’s rankings are changed, positively or negatively, Google should tell us why so we can improve. A great place for Google to do this is within Google Webmaster Tools.
In an attempt to cool things down with outraged webmasters, Google has stated within the post that page speed doesn’t carry much weight and that fewer than 1% of search queries have been affected by the new algorithm factor implementation. Still, if you are in about 1 in a hundred of search queries, your site ranking in particular may have been affected.
Google also linked to a few tools for webmasters to use to examine, analyze, and optimize webpage speed:
- Page Speed, an open source Firefox/Firebug add-on that evaluates the performance of web pages and gives suggestions for improvement.
- YSlow, a free tool from Yahoo! that suggests ways to improve website speed.
- WebPagetest shows a waterfall view of your pages’ load performance plus an optimization checklist.
- In Webmaster Tools, Labs > Site Performance shows the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world as in the chart below. We’ve also blogged about site performance.
You can learn more about tracking site performance using Google Webmaster Tools here: Site Performance In Google Webmaster Tools
Google also defends itself by saying that by using page speed in ranking, it is helping satisfy its users by giving them faster webpages. That is a good point, but I’m still against using page speed as an indicator of the importance of a page.
Since Google has gone through with the new page speed implementation, the best thing you can do as a webmaster is improve your… page speed. The best way to do this without spending hours staring at the computer working and coding to make your website faster is switch to a better webhost.
Back to Google’s new algorithm change, I hope they know what they’re doing.