According to Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, site speed is now officially one of the signals in their search algorithms.
Site speed is one of roughly 200 ranking factors that Google takes into consideration when looking at a site. While they’ve never come out and announced each and every factor, a well-versed SEO can make an educated guess at what many of them are.
If you’ve been paying attention to the SEO blogosphere, you most likely knew that this was coming. Bloggers have been talking about it since last year, and Google reps alluded to it many times at SMX West.
In 2009, Google released Page Speed, an open-source firebug addon that assists webmasters in improving their site’s speed. Many SEOs and webmasters realized that Google was making a statement by releasing this tool… They obviously wanted us to start thinking about the speed of our sites.
The Page Speed addon will analyze a web page for you, and give you a list of optimization tips. All issues that are identified by the tool come with suggestions in order to improve/fix them. Here’s what the Page Speed report looks like:
Firebug (a free Firefox plugin) is required in order to use the Page Speed plugin.
A page speed report has also been available in Webmaster Tools (in Labs, “Site performance”) since late last year.
This report provides you with a summary of your site’s speed over the past year, and will give you an idea of how your site ranks in terms of speed when compared to other sites on the web. It will also give you advice as to what you can do to improve your site’s speed.
Remember, page speed isn’t just important for the search engines. It is also very important for the overall user experience.
As outlined in my post about SMX West, speed also increases conversions. I feel that this bears repeating:
“Amazon added 100 ms to their load times. Sales dropped 1%. Google added 500 ms to their load times, and they lost 20% of their traffic.”
Is your site going to drop out of the SERPs because it doesn’t load at lightning speed? It’s unlikely. The general consensus seems to be that page speed isn’t a huge factor, and that a relevant page probably won’t be outlisted by significantly less relevant pages just because it takes a few seconds longer to load. But it’s certainly a good thing to be aware of… Not only because search engines are now looking at it, but because a faster site equals happier users.