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.