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Most online publishers already know instinctively that a slow-loading website isn't a good thing. After all, who has the time to browse around a website on which pages take forever to load? Not a lot of people in today's fast-paced world.

Google knows that, and after it dropped a hint late last year, has followed through on its plans to incorporate website speed into its ranking algorithm.

A post on the Google Webmaster Central blog explains:

Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we've seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don't just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs.

Common sense stuff to be sure, but that said, it's worth pointing out that it's probably not advisable to fret over your website's performance and hosting setup if your website generally performs well. That's because website speed is still a minor ranking factor:

While site speed is a new signal, it doesn't carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. Currently, fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal in our implementation and the signal for site speed only applies for visitors searching in English on Google.com at this point.

Nonetheless, in the highly-competitive world of SEO, any opportunity for gain will be of interest to publishers and SEOs. And although it might initially seem that big publishers with the most resources have the most to gain here, Google's Matt Cutts thinks that smaller publishers may have an easier time taking advantage of site speed:

...I think the average smaller web site can really benefit from this change, because a smaller website can often implement the best practices that speed up a site more easily than a larger organization that might move slower or be hindered by bureaucracy.

With that in mind, site speed could present development-savvy SEOs with a new opportunity. That's because hosting alone is rarely the cause of a slow website; a poorly written web application or HTML/CSS can be. SEOs who are able to pinpoint performance bottlenecks (inefficient SQL queries, sub-optimal HTML/CSS) and who can offer possible fixes (caching solutions, markup modifications) may now have an ability to make themselves even more invaluable to their clients.

From this perspective, I think the addition of site speed to Google's list of ranking factors is an important reminder for publishers and SEOs alike: building a successful website requires a holistic approach. Every little detail counts, even if just a little.

Photo credit: wwarby via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 12 April, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (9)

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Vincent Roman

I love this.  Finally justification not to host your website on some cheapo, rubbish, overloaded web hosting company's server.  As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.  That being said, Mosso, the Rackspace cloud, has been pretty darn awful lately!

over 6 years ago

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Luci

It's always a good idea to have a website that loads fast, so that those on slower connections don't need to wait too long for each page to load - anything that encourages this is a good idea in my opinion!

However, I read as well that this was only being implementef (at the moment) on google.com, so is this still just an [expanded] road test? How long before it reaches .co.uk etc?

over 6 years ago

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Faiz

Google should differenciate between a static website with no backend pulling and a website with load of data to display. May be they should treat all frontpages the same but a page displaying a blog should always render faster than a page with hundreds of records from a database And what about those websites hosted on a shared sever or VPS?

over 6 years ago

Matthieu Dejardins

Matthieu Dejardins, CEO & Founder at CloudNCo, Inc.

It is a logical decision for a Search Engine. Moreover, the load time of your landing pages was already specified as part of guidelines for the navigability components to determine the Quality score of Google Adwords (http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/static.py?hl=en&page=guidelines.cs&answer=46675&adtype=text).

over 6 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Faiz,

I think Google has made it clear that it's not looking at site speed on the order of milliseconds. This is a minor ranking factor and will only really affect those sites that are really, really, really slow.

That said, it is not accurate to say that a page displaying simple content will always load faster than a page that pulls hundreds of records from a database. With caching, whole or partial, for instance, the difference, if any, is likely to be miniscule. Other factors, such as HTML/CSS optimization, use of external scripts, etc. often have a greater impact on the 'speed' of a website. A database-generated page with good HTML/CSS, minimization of external JavaScripts, etc. might very well beat out a static page that is poorly coded.

over 6 years ago

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JOEs SYDNEY BACKPACKERS

Hey Guys

Thanks for the information on this, i am a bit worried about it!!  I use a CMS  and loading time is sluggish! - do you think i should be pushing the cms company to improve speed?  and at what stage do i make the decision to jump ship from them and take on all the effort of finding / uplaoding a new provider / system??

Do you think this adjustment to the algorithim is because of the increasing use of MOBILE DEVICES and 3G networks....  If so is speed going to become MORE important as time goes by??

Thanks for you input

over 6 years ago

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deltacubed web design

As other commentors have noted, it is a logical step for Google to start to weighting results based on speed. It is win-win: users will receive more useful results, hosting companies will have to pull their socks up to stay competitive and good web developers will continue to earn their keep :)

over 6 years ago

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E-Marketing Express

Does godaddy is a gd hosting provider?

about 6 years ago

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Brett Widmann

This is great! I'm glad they have finally done this. Thanks for sharing. 

over 5 years ago

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