It has been rumoured by many and mentioned by Google since late last year that the speed of a website is a very important factor. It should come as no surprise then, that Google made the official announcement that they are including a new signal into their search ranking algorithms: site speed.
Simply put, site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to a web request. The speed of a website (time that it takes to load) is very important, to all Internet users and specifically, site owners.
Google says that their users place a lot of value in speed and after doing some internal studies they have found that if they slow users down [on Google.com] thay have seen less engagement. They have come to the conclusion that users love fast sites and that a faster web is a good thing for everyone.
Faster sites create happy users, improves user experience and reduces operating costs. If a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.
This is enough motivation for Google and why site speed is taken into account in search rankings.
How does Google measures page speed?
There are two primary ways Google will measure page speed:
- How a page responds to Googlebot
- Load time as measured by the Google Toolbar
Tools for you to test your site’s speed
If you are a site owner or webmaster, here are some free tools that you can use to evaluate the speed of your site:
- Page Speed, an open source Firefox/Firebug add-on that evaluates the performance of web pages and gives suggestions for improvement.
- YSlow, a free tool from Yahoo! that suggests ways to improve website speed.
- WebPagetest shows a waterfall view of your pages’ load performance plus an optimization checklist.
- In Webmaster Tools, Labs > Site Performance shows the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world as in the chart below. We’ve also blogged about site performance.
- Many other tools on code.google.com/speed.
According to Google, site speed is a new signal and it does not carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. They are saying that currently there are fewer than 1% of search queries affected by the site speed signal and that the signal for site speed only applies for visitors searching in English on Google.com.
Your site may, or may not, be affected, but it is widely suggested that you start looking at your site’s speed to improve your ranking in search engines and improve everyone’s experience on the Internet.