The Importance of Site Speed and Google Rankings

Since 2010, Google has used page load times as a factor in its search ranking algorithms. Google’s reasoning behind this thought is that faster loading pages should be ranked higher because they provide a better experience for users. In their own words, they stated that, “Faster sites create happy users. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed, that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings.”

What is the page load speed’s impact on Google rankings?

When site speed rankings were first implemented, Google stated, “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”. “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….”

What webmasters have to say about page speed impacting rankings

  • Keri Morgret from SEOmoz reported that a site with load time issues saw “quite the drop in organic referrals from Google” when the page speed algorithm was pushed live.

  • Work Coach Cafe reported a 40% growth in traffic after addressing site performance issues.

  • Smartfurniture.com reported that rankings for 7 of its top 10 keywords after site speed was increased.

The data collected suggests that page speed doesn’t always impact rankings, but when it does the effect can be significant. Geoff Kenyon states, “site speed will affect only queries where other ranking signals are very close or when the load time is exceptionally poor.” Kenyon’s statement seems to be consistent with Google’s statements.

Should you be concerned about site speed?

Page rankings are often based on a combination of dozens of small algorithmic factors. Even though page speed is claimed to be a minor factor, even a small boost could be beneficial for your site. Page speed is also a factor the is completely within your control so its in your best interest to optimize this ranking factor.

What are the consequences of slow loading websites in terms of conversions and revenue?

Conversion rates are one major aspect that is significantly influenced by slow loading websites. For example, in 2009 Amazon proved that every 100 milliseconds of latency which occurred on their website will result in a 1% loss in sales. This means that every second of latency will cost Amazon approximately 10% of revenue. Another more recent study by Walmart, showed that every second of improvement in their website loading time would increase conversion by 2%.

How your website’s loading time influences your Search Engine traffic

One advantage of a fast loading website is the possibility for a search engine to crawl a website more efficiently, which would be especially beneficial for large eCommerce websites with thousands of pages. Based on this information alone, it is evident that having a fast loading website could potentially improve your organic search engine rankings. In addition to organic search results, page loading time is also a factor in determining Google Adwords’ Quality Scores. Not understanding this could dramatically affect your conversion rates.

How does faster page load speeds affect user experience?

Google added page speed into its algorithm because research showed that faster page load times make users happier.

  • A Google study found that “slowing down the search results page by 100 to 400 milliseconds has a measurable impact on the number of searches per user.”

  • Shopzilla achieved a 25% increase in pageviews and a 7-12% revenue increase by speeding up its site.

  • AOL presented data showing that page load speeds can impact pageviews per visit by up to 50%.

  • A 1 second delay can decrease conversions by 7%.

  • 75% of users said that they would not return to a website that took longer than 4 seconds to load.

  • Nearly half of users expect webpages to load in 2 seconds or less.

How to speed up your web pages

Google has updated their study and has determined the web itself is getting faster. Granted, technology has gotten a lot better in the last few years and servers have become more powerful and therefore faster.

The continued deployment of additional 4G/LTE towers to various markets also contributes to the increased speed and the speed and processing power of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets has also contributed to the overall increase in speed of the web.

However, the average size of web pages has increased by 56 percent since last year alone, so there is still a need to achieve the fastest loading speed for your website.

Find out your site’s actual speed

Even though Google states speed isn’t the most important factor in page rankings, the data shows that speed is, in fact very important. Your first step should be to find out your sites page load speed to provide a baseline measurement from which you can work to improve the speed of your website. Two good tools for measuring page load speeds are Pingdom Page Load Time tool and Google Analytics Site Speed reports.

Upgrade your server

Many large websites have to execute hundreds of lines of code, respond to dozens of requests and make multiple database queries to display a single page to each user. Hosting your website on a more powerful server can result in web pages being served faster. Having your website hosted on a dedicated server typically provides more server resources than having it hosted on a shared hosting account.

Optimize your code and files

There are several ways to optimize your server side code, HTML/CSS/Javascript code and images to minimize page load times. There is a lot of information on best practices that you can implement to decrease page load time.

Reduce the amount of DNS lookups

Reducing the amount of unique domain names from which resources are loaded will reduce the amount of DNS resolutions the browser has to make, and will therefore decrease round-trip delays.

Reduce the amount of bad requests

Broken links which result in 404 errors are all unnecessary and wasteful requests. So it is very important to continuously check your website for broken links.

Additional Options

For additional options to help speed up your website check out this great infographic from my friends at Hostingfacts.

In conclusion it is a fact that website loading times can have an enormous effect on the conversion rate and revenue of your website. This makes it very important to monitor the performance of your website constantly and to actively optimize the performance of your website.

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