Site Speed Now Affects Your Website’s Rank On Google speed 300x199 For years Google has been telling us how to present our content in a way that helps them understand what our websites are about.  Now, they want us to do it faster.

On Friday, Google announced something official that many in the SEO community were already expecting:  that the search engine will now consider site speed when ranking results.  If your website is too slow to load, you might find yourself slipping down the SERPs.

The Google Webmaster Central Blog says that "site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.”  That means that initial page load is a big deal now—though they claim they'll be looking at a host of speed factors in determining your site's "speed" score.

Google then waxes poetic for a bit about how much they love speed, and why speed is better for the whole internet—users and site owners (it'll save you money, they say, if you're a website owner who speeds up his site's performance).  And I'm alright with that.  I'm not necessarily sure that Google's wish for the Internet (more speed) should be everyone's wish, but they are in a unique position to instantly make speed matter more than it used to—and that's exactly what they've done.

They go on to give a nice list of tools and resources for site owners who wish to begin testing their site's speed:

  • Page Speed, which is a Firefox add-on that evaluates the performance of web pages and even offers tips for enhancement.
  • YSlow, a free tool from Yahoo! that suggests ways to improve website speed.
  • WebPagetest, which offers data on site load performance.
  • Webmaster Tools, which shows your site's speed performance data.

Google says it's not a very important signal in the algorithm at this point—apparently less than 1% of queries are even affected by this change… for now.  As with most things, Google is probably starting small, with plans to expand down the road after some more testing.

I'm hard pressed to believe that they would offer all these tools for improving website speed if they didn't have plans to increase that signal's weight more down the road.  Why stress at the end of the article that "We encourage you to start looking at your site's speed" if it's never going to impact more than 1% of queries?  I wouldn't be surprised to see it vault to the top of the list of important signals very quickly.

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So what does all this mean for video?  I'd say it's a healthy wrinkle in the "hosted versus posted" debate that has been going on as long as online video has existed.  No single change can completely close that hosted-versus-posted debate, for sure… but it can alter a person's decision greatly.

For instance, I work for a company that hosts a ton of small business websites.  Some of these sites are using YouTube to embed videos, and others have paid to have a custom flash player developed so they can host and serve their own videos.  Without question, the sites using YouTube are loading faster this morning.  I'm sure the reason for that is probably more complicated than a simple "YouTube eats the bandwidth on embedded videos" explanation, but it's data that I can't ignore when talking to these clients about how to rank their website moving forward.

In a very general way of speaking:  you're going to want to be much more conscious moving forward about how the way you build and maintain your site impacts its speed.  That may mean fewer photographs—or using lower quality images, embedded videos instead of hosted ones, fewer plugins or flash animations, etc.  Anything that helps add to the load time or slows down the performance of a page is going to start receiving extra scrutiny.

Google says it's all in the name of bettering the internet.  Of course, a faster site is a site that's easier to index, so let's not all act like there's no benefit to Google to make speed an important signal in the algorithm (heck, considering my point above about video may negatively impact site speed, this could be a boon to YouTube as well).

Regardless of the motivation, we are still faced with a new challenge:  make our sites faster.  For some of us, that's going to mean changing hosts.  For others, perhaps it means looking at a new publishing platform.  For other still… it might mean a complete overhaul of the type and format of a site's content.  But we're all in the same boat.  We're all spending the next few weeks asking ourselves:  How fast is my website?  What is the first thing I need to address to make it faster?

  • DanieW

    WOW! Just think of it. A quick answer is better than the best answer?? I can't agree! I understand all the points made, but...
    Maybe for the majority of people out there this will suffice.
    Here is now a good scope for an alternative search engine, I think! For which party should I vote? Here is the quick answer: This one! Never mind the answer which looks at all the issues, morals and resources to deliver on their promises! After this I will definitely reconsider my search engines!
    I only (more than 95%) use a search engine for searching for technical information and therefor am not in the target market (really) of the most companies.

  • Spunky Jones

    I have spent a fair amount of time optimizing my images and that increased my loading time. I finally, switched over to another hosting provider that has a faster network. That has made a big difference in the loading time of my site and pages. YSlow, showing speeds of, 0.670 for most of my sites. I also see faster loading speeds up to, 0.500 at different times during the day.

    The web hosting packages were pretty close to the same. However, my new provider gives me one core of the quad cpu. My old provider had me sharing the cpu with other users. I have gone from a 3.5% load to a 0.07% load by switching hosting providers. Hosting providers aren't created equal!

    I figure that I am set to go for loading speeds.

    • Mark Robertson

      Who did you move to and from? Im going through the same thing right now.

      • Spunky Jones

        From IdeaStack to Gotekky

        • Mark Robertson

          thanks. never heard of either but I appreciate it

  • Jack3d

    This is a good thing with the way websites can be pumped out these days through template designs.
    As far as Im concerned it gives people that actually are willing to improve their site another aspect to stand out rather than some fly by nighter stealing there thunder every now and then.
    Most of the time a site shouldn't have to cut down on images and flash. Its about smart design and trimming the fat off useless code.
    And you cant tell me that if its easier for google to index a site that you aren't aren't going to get more pages listed anyway, this will just add a bonus of a better rank as well.

  • webcopywriter

    I'm glad Google has finally made that speculation official! We've had many clients coming to us asking about site load time and its effect on page ranking. Unfortunately we continued to tell them that it is most likely a factor but there is no OFFICIAL criteria that says it's a factor. Thanks for this article.

  • ianmullins

    We optimize our pages for mobile distribution and video plays, so page size and speed has been important for years.

  • carpetcleaningbellevue

    Interesting that loading speed is now going to affect search results. Seems like there's always something Google's throwing at us to keep us all on our toes.

  • Kyle Simpson

    Google has hinted at this idea for months, and for awhile, I think most companies didn't take it seriously that web performance was going to be an important topic in the world of SEO. I think now it's clear you can’t ignore the topic anymore. Not that you have burn the village down and rebuild, as page performance will only ever be just one (smallish) portion of the overall PageRank, but in a competitive market place, the difference between 11th place (page 2) and 10th place (page 1!) may very well be your resource optimization and page-load speeds.

    We sensed this trend at Invodo and months ago began to overhaul our media player, with two main focuses: web standards and web performance. Not only is our new player smaller, but it’s modular, meaning the pieces can be loaded in parallel and thus quicker. Our belief is that if we can reduce the footprint (both file size and loading delay) of our player in our partners' pages, those sites will improve SEO standing automatically, which helps their content reach more viewers. This is a win-win.

    We're commited to creating best-in-class ecommerce video engagement experiences for our partners, and we believe that our new focus on performance optimization is validated by Google's recent announcement and represents the way forward.

    • Ain Tohvri

      Most correct. 1 of my PR5 sites with extensive Flash on it just dropped to PR4. I'd not be surprised if this was exactly the case.

      It's a worthy change indeed.

  • aptimize

    If you consider the broader impact: This is an important step for the future of the internet – putting a standard in place for a critical part of the user experience.

    Google has been transparent about the change and put in place guidence and tools to help website owners makes their sites rank well against the new standard.

    And most important: Ultimately this will make a better web experience for everyone.

    Ed Robinson