Website owners and bloggers, take heed: you don't need to stop whatever you're doing and eliminate all tools, videos, and pictures from your properties. But as soon as it's convenient, you may want to (re)check how quickly things load, because Google announced this afternoon that it's begun to factor site speed into its search rankings.
We hope this development hasn't caught anyone by surprise; without citing specific dates, Google's been talking about it for quite some time. Also, in a new official blog post, Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts pointed out that site speed is perhaps something everyone should have been paying attention to all along.
Then here's one more piece of info: according to Singhal and Cutts, this change was actually implemented "a few weeks back." Sneaky.
Anyway, the pair of Googlers explained on the Google+Webmaster+Central+Blog%29">Webmaster Central Blog, "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."
So if you want to pursue this matter, here are some free, Google-approved tools for checking site speed: PageSpeed, YSlow, and WebPagetest. Plus, there's a site performance lab among the other Webmaster Tools, and code.google.com/speed offers even more options.
We'll say one more time, though: this doesn't require anyone's immediate attention. Singhal and Cutts wrote, "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."