It’s official – Google is now using Site Speed as a factor in determining where to rank pages in its organic search engine results pages, following on from speculation that arose in November 2009 after a now infamous Matt Cutts hint.
Google has been using site speed as a ranking factor in its AdWords model for some time, but speed is now one of the 200 or so factors taken into account when ranking a page in organic listings, marking a fairly fundamental change and making it ever more challenging for web developers, web masters and search engine optimisers to achieve strong, high ranking positions. The knock-on effects will also be felt at hosting companies (particularly those who rely on the high-volume, low-service model) as more pressure is put on them to deliver web pages quickly, which itself can be largely dependent on the quality of code produced by programmers but also on the hardware provided, internal infrastructure, bandwidth available and connections. Suffice to say, those who invest in high-quality infrastructure and fast connections will feel the benefit as clients migrate towards them, as will developers who take the time to produce efficient, clean code that doesn’t get in the way of the user experience.
The team at Google are keen to stress that the impact is likely to be minimal, saying:
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 in our implementation and the signal for site speed only applies for visitors searching in English on Google.com at this point. We launched this change a few weeks back after rigorous testing. If you haven’t seen much change to your site rankings, then this site speed change possibly did not impact your site.
Speed has long been of interest to Google as they have carried out extensive testing on the impact of speed on how users interact with their search tools. In short, a speedier site means better click-through rates, higher levels of engagement and a generally higher degree of satisfaction.