The decision has been at least a few months in the making, as Google hinted at the possibility of using website speeds to determine search engine placement back near the end of 2009. It is a sure bet now, however, as they just announced that speed will be added to the overall equation.
Does this mean that speed will be the overriding factor in where websites place? No, it does not. In fact site speed, or more specifically, the rate at which a website responds to requests, is just a tiny piece of the overall search engine ranking puzzle. This should come as a relief to many webmasters who might have jumped the gun in scrambling to see how they can improve their site speed after the announcement was made.
In actuality, the new site speed signal is just one of the 200-plus signals used by the company. While many do not know just exactly how important each signal is with regard to one another in terms of weight, the fact that there are so many used means one must have a well-rounded site to place favorably. Also, a site’s relevance to the topic at hand is still on the top of the list in terms of dominance. The sheer amount of signals used in the rankings also means that many webmasters might not notice a change in their pages’ rankings despite the site speed addition to Google’s algorithms.
So, why has Google decided to introduce speed into the equation? Quite simply, Google, like many of us, believes that time is money. Not only can web surfers become annoyed by long load times, but companies can be affected by the extra time wasted when visiting a site. Increasing site speed increases efficiency. Also, if a site loads faster, a user will be more likely to visit it more often, especially if it provides an enjoyable and quick surfing experience. Sites loaded with lag and long load times might prove to be too frustrating for many users, causing them to not even want to visit them.
While this news is definitely positive for the casual Internet user, some webmasters are not so enthusiastic. For one, they believe that Google, for the time being, is too vague as to just how the site speed affects the rankings. They also believe that using site speed as a determinant for rankings will encourage simplicity. Many webmasters will try to make their sites simpler to accommodate the change, and those with sites that require more complex programming will be punished.
To keep things fair, Google uses a range of tools to compare website speeds, and they also are doing their best to advise webmasters how they can clock their own sites speeds for better clarification. It will be interesting to see just how much this change affects the Internet landscape; hopefully, it will be for the better.
To read more on Google’s use of site speed in their rankings, visit the Register article.