April 13, 2010

Google results to take into account site speed

by Darren Allan

Google has announced that its search engine results have started to take into account the speed of a site.

In other words, the faster a site can serve up its pages, the higher it is ranked on returned search results – to an extent.

The theory is that users prefer swiftly responding sites, and are more likely to want to return and use them.

Which is true enough, although some users, gamers for example, also enjoy video heavy sites, with preview footage, or Flash bells and whistles that may take a little more time to load. And these sort of fancier efforts could be ranked downwards.

Still, this move is very much a toe in the water for the search company, as the actual impact site speed will have on page rankings will be minimal.

Google clearly states that the main issue, the relevancy of a page, will still remain the cornerstone of how its results are returned.

Currently, the speed algorithms apparently only effect 1 in 100 search queries on the engine. Although that figure could increase over time.

Also, the new speed measures have only been brought into action for English searches on Google.com thus far.

In a statement on the Google Webmaster Central Blog, the company posted: “We encourage you to start looking at your site’s speed – not only to improve your ranking in search engines, but also to improve everyone’s experience on the Internet.”

Google then mentions some tools you can use to evaluate and improve your site’s speed.

These include Page Speed (http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed), YSlow from Yahoo (http://developer.yahoo.com/yslow), and Web Pagetest (http://www.webpagetest.org).

If you’ve noticed that your site has mysteriously slipped down Google recently, it could be that you’re one of the 1% of web pages which have been revised by the new speed algorithms. As they’ve actually been running for the last couple of weeks.

Reactions seem mixed thus far, with some welcoming the change in the comments on the blog post, and others concerned about image or video laden sites being penalised, as we’ve already mentioned.

Another comment questioned exactly how Google measured site speed, and yet another said that they were removing Google Analytics code from all their sites because it slows things down.

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