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Google Sets Record Straight on Page Speed as Ranking Factor

How Important is the Speed of Your Site?

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Late last year, in a conversation about the Caffeine update, Google’s Matt Cutts told WebProNews that page speed could become a factor Google looks at for ranking search results. His comments received a lot of attention, because Google has never taken this into consideration for ranking websites in the past. The notion that they would do so riled a lot of people up, because a lot of site owners out there simply don’t have incredibly fast sites. That could pose a big problem if it suddenly damages their search rankings.

Do you count speed among the priorities for your site? Comment here.

Despite the fact that Cutts never said that page speed would become any more important of a ranking factor than anything else, many around the web and Blogosphere jumped to conclusions. While many more have remained sensible about the concept, not expecting page speed to trump relevant content, Cutts has now provided a video setting the record straight. The video is a response to the following user-submitted question:

Since we’re hearing a lot of talk about the implications of Page Speed, I wonder if Google still cares as much about relevancy? Or are recentness and page load time more important?

Matt’s answer is simply, "No. Relevancy is the most important. If you have two sites that are equally relevant (same backlinks…everything else is the same), you’d probably prefer the one that’s a little bit faster, so page speed can be an interesting theory to try out for a factor in scoring different websites. But absolutely, relevance is the primary component, and we have over 200 signals in our scoring to try to return the most relevant, the most useful, the most accurate search result that we can find. That’s not going to change." (emphasis added)

"If you can speed your site up, it’s really good for users, as well as potentially down the road, being good for search engines," he says. "So it’s something that people within Google have thought about."

It is interesting that anyone would ever assume page speed would become more important than relevance to Google, just because Matt Cutts indicated that page speed may become one of the many factors Google uses. If it were more important than relevance, Google probably would have been placing emphasis on page speed for a long time.

That said, it is worth pondering just how big a factor page speed would play. If there are over 200 factors, where would page speed be placed within the ranking of ranking factors? On a scale of one to two hundred, where would Google rank the importance of page speed? That question might not be quite so easy to answer, particularly since Google isn’t real keen on the idea of giving away its secrets, and frankly, that’s probably in the best interest of the web.

Just as with any other SEO tactic, it is up to individuals and the industry at large to speculate, analyze, and test. It’s no easy feat, but there are plenty of educated guesses out there about just what Google’s "over 200 ranking factors" are. Once you get into how much weight each one carries, it gets even more difficult to speculate.

I think the real takeaway here is simply to make your site as fast and user-friendly as possible, within reason. If it means you have to spend less time producing relevant content that is likely to get you good search engine placement, then maybe it’s not worth it. However, if it means providing a better user experience on top of relevant content, and it’s within your means to do so, it will only have good implications for the future of your site.

Google offers webmasters a lot of different tools to help them make their sites faster. In fact, they have a list of such tools here, and it doesn’t just contain Google tools. They also point to tools from third-party developers. It’s all part of Google’s initiative to "make the web faster."

On a scale of 1 to 200, where would you place the importance of page speed? Discuss here.

Related Articles:

Google: Page Speed May Become a Ranking Factor in 2010

Google Tracks User Data to Monitor Load Times

Google Introduces Page Speed Tool

Things to Consider if Page Speed is to Become a Ranking Factor

Google Provides Tool for Speeding Up Web Pages

Google Launches Site Performance Feature

Google Announces SPDY Application-Layer Protocol

Google Sets Record Straight on Page Speed as Ranking Factor


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  • http://www.crearecommunications.co.uk Amelia

    This is exactly what I took it to mean. Obviously Google are always going to place relevancy at the top of their list of ‘ranking factors’ – the purpose of google is to supply great sites for searches. Never forget that.

    • Chris Crum

      Yes, I was surprised so many people questioned if Google would put that much emphasis on speed.

  • http://dmsoft-wy.com dmm

    I think Google is going way off mark. The end result is Webmasters will begin to offer LESS content as a result. It would result in unfair competition for webmasters who are well established with content rich websites.

  • http://www.internationalshippingshops.blogspot.com Rachel Inbar

    The guys there had speed at about 10%, relevance at 30% and CTR at 60% *for Adwords placement* – so I’m starting to think that there’s something to the speed issue, but not very much. They mentioned other things, such as how much time people spend on your page, in your site; how easy the site is to navigate, etc. My main site (http://www.fertilitystories.com) is fairly slow, but it gets loads of organic search, so I’m trying not to worry myself about speed too much (since I have no budget to completely redo the site at this point).

  • http://www.morestar.ca morestar

    One of my sites is rather slow at the moment and frankly whether speed does or doesn’t become a full fledged ranking factor in the future, simply for my users I must increase the load speed of my site – one way or another.

    • Chris Crum

      I think that’s exactly the way Google wants you to think.

  • http://www.adondesta.com NeoDyo

    Hi there!

    I think that google’s combinating several elements to cauce to improves its algorithm in order to change the relevancy at the top of their list , yes, but also it must be consider how much is the content rich of information and “nice” to the end user. I’m thinking is to have great sites for searches. Be a rich enterprise, as a little enterprise.

    regards

  • http://www.snerdey.com Snerdey

    Since the web / internet in general is speeding up as in more cell phone browsing, 3G and now 4G it just makes since for a site owner to make sure the website is at least loading fast. We all know it takes less than 15 sec’s to loose a visitor that’s not willing to wait for loading times. Just seams that nobody want’s to wait these days.

    What I’ve found in all my years are mostly sites that are online builders, cms type sites that business owners, mostly smaller ones, take over the website updating and etc.. This is not always such a good idea. Sure it’s good to save money but what are you really saving?

    Many times over the biggest issue is one huge page a mile long with dozens of photos that have be added to the website 1.5 mb in size and only scaled down to fit into a small area. It’s still 1.5mb and the images need to be properly reduced not only in size AND byte size.

    Other issues are poorly designed, free scripted sites or pure flash sites. There are much better options now and many just need to be scrubbed and replaced.. sorry, it’s bluntly true.

    Speed it up!
    Snerdey

  • http://str82u.net Str82u

    Load time and properly arranged code have ALWAYS been a factor since the first time it showed profit potential. My niche is one where it’s important. A large percentage are hurried because it’s a “situation” or they are at work on company internet.

    To show my ignorance, I thought speed WAS a factor for the last 4 years or so. With less than 20 back links to some sites how do they beat companies with 2000 or more. Little things like page speed, cutting out excess and creative writing. My SEO is horrible, cutting out code improved how viewers experienced it and the SERPS too.

    I want Search Engines to rank by speed; that’s not a purist attitude. When you try to load jquery and junk on users it gets old; just because they have high speed doesn’t open the door to throwing load times back to dial up days. Really, the gimmicks are cool, but how many are FOR the user anyhow?

    How fast can you hit the back button? Mine is on my mouse thumb and has a hair trigger baby, don’t slow me down.

  • http://www.controldatainc.com agency collection

    I think Google is going to do anything in its power to stay on top of things which also includes speed

  • http://www.cheapseeds.com Jeff

    I have found that the faster your website loads the more visitors you keep. I have been on websites with video loading before you can see anything and I just hit the back button. They say a visitor will decide to stay or leave you website in the first 5 to 10 seconds. If your site is loading for half that time your chances of them staying on you site go way down.

  • http://websitejudge.com MacSeth

    Whatever Google is saying about it and no matter how “low” the calculation of speed will be in the overall calculation, bear in mind the following:

    1 – your page gets faster (on itself a small factor)
    2 – the amount of time spent on your website will most probably increase (on itself a factor as well)
    3 – the amount of pageviews on the website will get better (this also bears a factor)
    4 – the conversion is increasing (and it will show in Google Analytics which is used A LOT!)

    All these points at itself should move ANY webmaster to increase speed already… next to that it WILL eventually be an absolute essential.

    In MY point of view pagespeed itself may be a small portion in the optimization process but taking all the secondary gains in mind it is actually a lot more then a small portion.
    Speeding up your website itself will not do the job totally of course… however… if you have very good content and a lot of competition this could be the WINNING factor.

    So… my conclusion is: ABSOLUTELY get yourself to optimize the speed of your website… it will not only please visitors, but in the long term also the visitors.

    • http://websitejudge.com MacSeth

      The lost sentence should be: ABSOLUTELY get yourself to optimize the speed of your website… it will not only please visitors, but in the long term also the SERPS.

  • http://www.ghilliesandstuff.com James Mizzell

    Google should grade a website with load speed as a factor and one way or another, they always have. If a page is heavily loaded with large graphics files, it can take a long time to load and I certainly will not stick around for that big event. When folks don’t wait for a page to load, it will show up in statistics. Google will take note and rank accordingly.

  • http://koratfart.com Nakhon

    A cleanly coded site on a non overloaded server isn’t that hard to create, web surfers do deserve it as they do pay your wages, if you can’t manage even the basics it’s time for you to think of a career change.

  • http://www.kruse.co.uk UK SEO Services

    Page Speed may not have been important in the past, but we didn’t have smart phones and PADS (or whatever) in the past. Download speed has a new relevance these days. It’s a new ball game. I find it very hard to believe Google aren’t well aware of this and that’s why they’re pushing Page Speed. Suggesting that it isn’t a ranking factor is probably the usual Google disinformation.

    BB

  • Donald

    In my opinion, it should be the first factor in page rank.

    • Chris Crum

      I don’t know about that. A fast page doesn’t amount to much if it doesn’t have information that helps you find what you were looking for.

  • http://www.freelegitmoney.com Guest

    I just seen that my site was 93% slower than other sites which in time has lowered my rankings. I am trying to fix that problem. Any suggestions.

  • http://www.carbon-footprint-defined.com Jane

    The best way to comment I think, is to simply think about what I do, when a site page
    I want to see takes forever to load. I just leave. So, I worry about speed more in terms
    of what the visitors think and if they will return or not. But, it’s nice to know that Google isn’t “timing” me, at least not yet. I don’t want to give them a reason to anyway.

  • http://www.islandvillaweddings.com Adrian

    In my opinion it is the viewer rather than Google who will reach a conclusion on page loading speed. My experience is that as long as the time for the page to load is not overly excessive, and I want to view the site, I will wait. A couple of seconds or so does not make that much difference. If it is considerably slow I would probably move on to another search result instead so it is really up to the website owner to ensure their site is not so slow as to make a difference.

  • http://www.ownerrentalsinmyrtlebeach.com Guest

    I don’t care how great your site is, if I have to wait a little to long, I’m gone. We all have this built in timer in our brain and when it is exceded we lose interest real fast. Hey, I’ve got 90 zillion other choices to go to on Google, why should I wait for you.

    • Chris Crum

      For me, that would depend on how easy it is to find the info elsewhere. If I’m search for something specific that nobody else seems to have, and the one site I find that is slow looks promising enough to maybe have what I’m looking for, I’ll likely stick around a bit to at least see if that info is there. This is why relevance would have to carry more weight.

    • http://www.creditrepairreport.org Credit Repair Report

      Page speed should be a webmaster’s priority even though it’s not a ranking factor for Google. The majority of people will not wait on a slow loading page. Here’s a website to check you web page load time for Free: http://www.selfseo.com/website_speed_test.php

    • http://www.creditrepairreport.org Credit Repair Report

      Page speed should be a webmaster’s priority even though it’s not a ranking factor for Google. The majority of people will not wait on a slow loading page. Here’s a website to check your web page load time for Free: http://www.selfseo.com/website_speed_test.php

  • http://www.dentistspreston.co.uk pahlbod

    speed is obviously a crucial factor but Relevency is a must, To be fair ; speed shouldnt be a ranking factor

  • WilliamC

    I see Matts video still has not cleared the air much as obviously so many people in the comments here still think that speed IS a factor, and that it would matter if it was.

    People, Matt clearly stated “If you have two sites that are equally relevant (same backlinks…everything else is the same), you’d probably prefer the one that’s a little bit faster, so page speed can be an interesting theory to try out for a factor in scoring different websites.”

    The words ‘can be an interesting theory’ says it all. IT IS NOT BEING USED in any way yet.

    None of your rankings have suffered because your websites speed is 95% slower than other sites, or any other nonsense.

  • sofakingdabest

    Dear Matt,

    If an improvement falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound? Obviously yes. If you have to explain an improvement, it is not an improvement. What’s it like to be the God of search?

  • http://www.gospelmusiconline.co.uk Guest

    My site has dropped WAY down in page ranking, definately due to page load time. Google is now indexing an older version of my site which happens to be faster, but has much less content! Page speed seems to be THE major ranking factor here, the disadvantage is that you cant put as much useful content i.e pictures, videos or dare i say it….ads. Its all about the ADS…

  • http://www.rainbowriting.com/ Karen Cole

    I would like to comment that if you make your site’s pages, especially the home page (where load time is the most important factor when clicking the link from a search engine) W3C compliant, or in other words “green” your site so that it’s fuly disabled accessible – you will decrease your site’s home page’s and each page that is now green’s load time. Before I made my home page W3C compliant, site load time was about three-five seconds. Now it’s down to less than one second. I made each of my site pages green and the load time is down to less than a second for each page. As long as Google considers site load time in its page ranking, this is very important. You can green your site by working on the code using the W3C guidelines and other sites on the Web, or you can hire someone to correct your site code. I would suggest doing the latter unless you know some code, but the W3C compliance site will give you point by point guidelines that you can use to correct your site. I would suggest also bringing all of the code on your site, especially your home page (loading page) to current standards while you’re at it, as this decreases site load time overall. Correct all of the code on your page that is old, eliminate unused styles and excess code that you don’t need, and you will decrease site load time and increase load speed.

  • http://www.tracking-system.com/ Tracking System

    Google still needs to have more people manually comb sites.There is so much non-sense that is top ranked under subjects such as “GPS Tracking”…more emphasis should be on updates/ blog posts..not just age..

  • Matt

    I agree with Matt Cutts, relevancy should always be the #1 ranking factor – after all it wouldn’t do Google any favors to not return relevant search results, their business is dependent on relevancy – right? But he didn’t answer the question of ranking weight being given to page load speed. Like the poster above I’m begining to think speed has a factor of about 10%, just from my own experience.

    I spent time researching page load speed last year for the company I work for – we have a large ecommerce site, a corporate site and an intranet – our business is very competitive so we really have to be hyper aware of any benefits we can take advantage of. We ended up getting a website accelerator (Aptimze) and its been excellent. Lets not forget that it benefits Google for us to have faster sites, e.g.. people view more pages if they load faster therefore are more likely to click on advertising e.g. Adsense ;) So Google are incentivised to make speed matter, I think Caffeine is the start of making it matter.

    There’s lots of research and case studies out there demonstrating increased page speed results in increased page views, increases in revenue, reduction in hardware costs, increases in search engine traffic. Do a search for Gomez, Akamai – Shopzilla have also spoken publicly on how inceasing the speed of their site has inceased their business, they have influenced many eC sites to think about speed.

    • http://www.24-7PetsShop.com Patricia Marchand

      Personally I think, and I am just an amateur, speed is very important.
      If a site is too slow to open or react I close it, because my time is precious and very importantly I am suspicious of a very slow site wondering if the site is not searching for private information on its visitors.

  • http://www.web-optimizer.us/ sunnybear

    It seems it’s time to use some auto-acceleration solutions, like WEBO Site SpeedUp or Aptimize

  • http://www.promotinggroup.com/ Promoting Group

    What does Page Speed have to do with the relevancy of what someone is searching for? If page speed becomes an important determining factor, then there will be millions of sites that will have to be rebuilt or reorganized to get optimum rankings…..might as well not use any images EVER….it will be like reading a book!

    Myself, being the Director of Operations for Promoting Group, our clients care very much about the importance of PROPER INTERNET MARKETING, but at the same time as a 18 year veteran of the Internet World, the “visual” is extremely important to the user, to the site owner, and to the company overall….IT IS PART OF THE BRANDING FOR A COMPANY.

    If Page Speed is a major factor, and Web Design companies start building sites with this in mind, it will be as if we are going backwards to 1997 and earlier….when companies complained that their sites were UGLY.

  • C Whitehorn

    I live in heavily wooded rural mountains, no cable or DSL, satellite internet limited because of the trees, cell phone service very spotty, etc. This area is not poverty stricken, just geographically challenged, very beautiful and very private.

    I was able to put a satellite dish in my meadow, but paid a premium for the very heavy duty cable from the meadow to my house, a couple hundred feet.

    Because of the terrain, many of my neighbors and friends are limited to dial-up. In this area, that means a usual connection around 19.6, with maybe a connection speed of 24.0 if you are lucky. Under the circumstances I do consider speed a factor, and I design sites to take speed into consideration.

    Instead of waiting a couple minutes for a site to download, it can be easier and less frustrating to go to a faster (even if not better) site.

  • http://www.memphissigncompany.com memphissigncompany

    I try diligently to keep the speed up as high as it can be for load time. Our site is photo intensive to show our services. The other pages have more data in them, although it is always tempting to have many graphics on the main page.

    Memphissigncompany

  • http://www.createyourownwebsite.co.za Pieter

    Speed is very Important, if I do a search and open a web site from the results page, if that site does not open within like 3 or 4 seconds I close it and move on to the next. Same for these terrible Flash Intro screens. It is horrible, we want results on a search not a fancy animation playing, we need info that is why we do a search.
    Perhaps Google can do us all a favor and also penalize sites with flash intros.

  • Guest

    hello, google should marketing weblog and can help me,

  • http://www.technoskillonline.com sudharsan @ technoskillonline

    A home page of about 500kb is good for seo if it exceeds it will surely irritate the user

  • http://www.clickinnovation.co.uk James CRM Brown

    It seems pretty sensible to penalise slow websites just as humans do by clicking off to another website.

  • http://www.blackballonline.com Pittsburgh Online Marketing

    The easier it is for the SE crawlers to identify and index pages the more rewards they heap on a page. Google’s mission “To index all the world’s information”, they reward sites for making their job easier; only stands to reason.

  • http://www.seoexploration.com Fred

    Thanks for the article and latest on the Google page download speed saga. Unfortunately a lot of my sites arewordpresswhich was really giving me a headache overcoming there poor download speed which is due to the build used in most cases. I also came to the conclusion that I preferred to give good content and “user experience” rather than screwing up my sites by trying to download faster. Having said this I have now gotten used to using “Yslow” and “page speed” so the whole exercise was definitely worthwhile.
    Keep up these good articles….

    • http://picturemousemat.com t bareham

      WordPress sites are often very slow to load it seems, there are a couple of Gzip plugins however, that do speed them up slightly.

      I have ditched wordpress now having seen my site slide in the results.

      Having a good user experience and quality content is the way it should be, but if people cant find your site because it’s crashed in the rankings, it don’t help much.

  • http://www.superfloorcoat.com Concrete Floor Coatings

    I agree with making your site easy friendly, laser focus content, and quick site load.

  • Guest

    They should use page speed as does the user in making critical decisions.

    Some very interesting research has come out in the past few months about how important the business benefits of improved performance- I found this post http://www.watchingwebsites.com/archives/proof-that-speeding-up-websites-improves-online-business by Alistair Croll and the guys at Strangeloop Networks particulary interesting.

    • Guest

      I really like that post re: proof that speeding up your websites helps- it validates our experience.

      We found that page speed had a significant impact on search engine rankings when we started to optimize our site for performance a few months ago. I believe it might be at least 10% perhaps higher as we tried to control our experiment and not change our content (just the speed). The ranking system is complex for a reason- many factor should influence placement, including performance IMHO.

      We are a top 3000 ecommerce site- our experiments with speed demonstrated that the benefit was SEO related but more significantly business KPI related (conversion rates, pages/visit, bounce rate etc…). Once we saw this connection we looked around for off the shelf solutions as we found the process very expensive, time consuming and repetitive (like paiting the golden gate bridge- once we finished we had to start again with new code revs, new browser etc…). Our seach is not complete but we have looked at Strangeloop Networks and the F5 Web Accelerator.

      Many great resources exist on these topics: I have always found the stuff from Steve Souders www.stevesouders.com to be very helpful. I would also highly recommend the Velocity conference (http://en.oreilly.com/velocity2010).

  • http://www.mouse-mat.com mat

    I would take issue with the claim that page speed doesn’t affect rankings these days. I have several sites, one consistantly ranked within the top 3 results on page 1 for many of it’s keywords over the last 12 months. Since mid-january however it has lost it’s PR of 2 and slumped to page 2 of the results for no obvious reason, Google labs however says the site takes 3-4 seconds to load but continual checking with many tools such as Free Website Speed Test all say it takes between 1 and 1.5 seconds to load.

    It’s my personal feeling that either this is more google mis-information, or quite simply Mr Cutts isn’t as clued up or knowledgeable about googles algorithm and how it

      really

    works and ranks sites as he thinks he is.

    Nice article by the way Chris.

  • http://picturemousemat.com Guest

    oh joy, googles off on another mission to prat webmasters about!

    The bottom line is that fast loading sites could just as easily be sites with very little to merit visiting them in the first place, And irrelevent garbage delivered quickly is of as little interest as irrelevent garbage delivered a second or so slower.

    will sites that have been ranked/boosted in serp’s due to page load speed, be easily identifiable? maybe with a note or a star beside them? i ask because if they didn’t (or aren’t capable of) attain that position naturally without speed being a factor, i would question whether or not i want my time wasted visiting a site that may be of lower quality, relevence etc than the one below it in the serps.

  • http://www.worldwatching.co.uk watching

    there is something doesn’t seem to be being discussed in the whole page speed fiasco…

    Everything i have read about this page load speed thing states that the data is taken from computers using the Google toolbar with PR Tool enabled and is the time it takes from clicking the link to your site to when the page is fully loaded on their screen.

    So that means while i’m zipping about on the internet with my super quick broadband cable connection and hi speed computer, i’m very possibly helping someones site rank higher…

    Meanwhile someone could be sat miles from a telephone exchange, on a slow dial up connection with an old 486 computer merrily killing my site in serps, while his connection and computer take a millenium to load my page.

    I guess all that is left to ask is, what do you do for an encore Mr Matt Cutts? neutron bomb juggling maybe?

  • http://stephwoodsseo.com Steph Woods

    I don’t think that anyone ever thought that Google will take speed over relevancy. What everyone was talking about is that more emphasis will be put on speed than it was before. Like the rest of the factors in the algorithm, it will just be one small part of it. For example, having great page titles can help you rank, but a great page title alone won’t get you to the number one spot if your content isn’t relevant.

    Whenever people talk about ranking factors, relevancy will always be king. Search engines are attempting to provide users with the most relevant results. Period. To think that any other factor ever will be more important than relevancy is just silly IMHO.

  • http://www.dotphi.com Kelvin

    Thanks for the update on google’s Matt cutt interview. Its going to be really helpful

  • http://www.clients-guide.com/ Simon

    Oho i hope this is not a main reason for the Ranking. What about Usebility or Content;(

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