By Jennifer Farley

Is Your Site A Fast Loader? Google Rankings Now Affected By Site Speed

By Jennifer Farley

On the official Google blog, the latest post discusses how Google is incorporating site speed as one of the over 200 signals that they use in determining search rankings.  Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests. Google first mentioned in a blog post in December, that a change was coming down the line.

On the blog they say that “while site speed is a new signal, it doesn’t carry as much weight as the relevance of a page” and at the moment, “fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal”. 1% of all Google searches would still be a huge number of sites though.

Apart from optimizing your site for Google, the main reason you should do it is to improve the experience for your visitors. As broadband speeds get faster, it’s easy to forget about the people who may still be trawling the web on slow connections. Nobody likes waiting for sites to load so when designing your site it’s a good idea to think about how fast (or slowly) your site loads.

300px-Speedometer There are a number of free tools that designers can use to check the speed of your site.

  • Page Speed is an open source Firefox/Firebug add-on, Webmasters who run Page Speed on their pages get a set of scores for each page, as well as suggestions on how to improve its performance.
  • YSlow analyzes web pages and suggests ways to improve their performance. It’s a Firefox add-on integrated with the Firebug web development tool.
  • WebPagetest provides a comparison against an optimization checklist and a waterfall of your page load performance
  • Webmaster Tools Site Performance shows the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world.

What do you think about this change from Google? Have you tried these or other tools to check and improve your site speed?

  • W2ttsy

    I can see a few issues with this:
    1) it unfairly biases those who can afford fast and reliable hosting (most likely in the US)
    2) can it take into account a slowdown of the backbone while its trying to access your page?
    3) what about trawling the site during a peak period?
    4) what is slow? is there going to be a spree of sites that are pure HTML with no images or CSS just so they can maximise load times?

    At the end of the day, any number of unrelated circumstances could severely hamper your speed “number” in what would otherwise be a quick loading page.

  • Most “speed” issues for my sites are the code from Google like Adsense, analytics, site search etc.

  • didgy58

    i agree with olaf2 with regards to some of Google’s code being slightly slow, but i know they have now developed asynchronous Google analytics code to help with this, and i’m assuming that it wont be long before they will be able to offer this type of system for their other services.

  • At the moment my speed is okay, even with adsense and analytics. The sitepoint site is much slower :)

    btw. I’m trying the asynchronous code from GA since a while, looks good to me

  • Right, So Speed also matters.
    I have also written a same post on it.

    You should also think about CDN. They also increase your site speed.

  • Wardrop

    @W2ttsy, I’m sure Google are competent enough to consider such obvious potential flaws of the system (not being rude by the way; sadly I can’t convey tone with text).

    I personally think it’s about time. While the relevance of a site is obviously the most important search criteria, site speed can have a huge impact on the usefulness of otherwise relevant sites. Take ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ for example. That site is painfully slow, not because of any bandwidth problems, but because of the sheer number of objects on their pages, and the sluggishness of their servers.

    When Google talk about speed, I’m confident that there scoring based on such things as the amount of time it takes a site to fulfil a request (taking into account server location and typical network latency) and the number of objects on any given page.

  • @Wardrop,

    the information is available for your site via GWT:

    I’m sure the site with this performance will rank lower

    On average, pages in your site take 5.1 seconds to load (updated on Mar 14, 2010). This is slower than 71% of sites.

    Than a site with this performance:
    On average, pages in your site take 1.0 seconds to load (updated on Apr 10, 2010). This is faster than 93% of sites.

  • XLCowBoy

    I don’t like where this could potentially be going.

    What if a site’s intention is to provide a RICH user experience, instead of a fast, information-is-primary one? This could be potentially detrimental to promotional microsites and other graphic-intensive (for a reason!) sites.

  • XLCowBoy

    and why is my URL “carl-site?” I don’t have a carl-site.

  • There is a video with Matt Cutts about the page speed. I understand from this video that this is about really slow websites.

  • @XLCowBoy: That URL thing is a bit weird. It seems everyone who doesn’t have a custom URL set, is getting linked to carl-site. lol

    Might want to look at that SitePoint.

  • haha, I need to get this domain :)

  • It still amazes me that anybody cares what Google does. SEO is a vicious circle, that just makes it harder for users to find what they want, and harder for SEs to index their content effectively.

  • I have used the suggestions in page speed and yslow to greatly speed up my page load times while still having a content rich site with JQuery CSS and Google analytics.

  • My basic problem with it is Google’s taken an understandable (even if questionable) idea and applied crazy expectations to it. Webmaster Tools tells me that any site taking longer than 1.5 seconds to load is “slow”. That rules out pretty much anything with ads and/or not hosted on a CDN. In the real world I think a lot of companies will decide meeting the 1.5sec load time is going to cost more than it brings in and just take the hit.

  • It makes a whole lot of sense.

    Google is all about delivering the best experience to the end user. For example, years ago they implemented a policy of not allowing AdWords advertisers to use pop-up windows. This is just the next logical step… If you’re in the slowest 10% or 20% of websites on the web, why should you show up in the Top 10 results when there’s a site that’s just 0.1% less relevant but much faster that will deliver a better user experience?

    Remember, Google is always running continual tests on their algorithms across data centers, so they’ve obviously found that implement page load time as a signal is important.

  • logo design portfolio

    i always be concerned about page load time for all site i developed.Recently google also release Google report card for to provide ideas on how to improve pages optimizations.

  • A.Stewart

    Having a fast load speed is important for Search Engine Rank. Visitors to a website will only wait a few seconds the estimated time a user will wait for a site to load is about 5.1 seconds. Most users will wait longer if they have committed to a purchase from a website or if they are uploading or downloading an actual file from a website. The initial pages should load fast to prevent users from leaving and finding product and services elsewhere on the internet. Your first step should be SEO, if you are building a website hire a experience Web Design company who also specializes in SEO.

    “SEO and Webdesign for Austin Texas”
    Designer / Content – Business Communication Solutions

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