The speed at which a website loads is often treated as solely a customer experience problem, when in fact it goes right to the heart of a company’s search engine optimisation strategy.
Search engine behemoth Google officially announced in 2010 that speed had entered into its algorithm for ranking web pages, confirming that this factor had become a technical issue that could impact a brand’s online strategy and not just something that might affect a user’s personal view of site.
After announcing the change, a post on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog reminded readers that the company is “obsessed with speed” and it is no exaggeration to say that anything Google considers important will be deemed pivotal by anyone keen to make an impression online, as the company plays such a dominant role on the web.
It is perhaps overly reductive to attribute the internet’s obsession with speed to Google, since achieving faster operation speeds has been a concern for the world wide web since its birth, but the company has certainly adopted a strict stance on the topic.
According to the New York Times, in 2003 the firm handed out plastic stopwatches to its staff after the launch of Gmail – which slowed systems down – to emphasis how important speed is to Google.
As a result, it makes sense that the search engine would introduce speed as a ranking factor. There are all sorts of reasons why a site might be slow to load, such as poorly written code, lack of compression, external embedded media, too much Flash or the need for a superior web hosting package. Whatever it is that is slowing down a site, Google said in no uncertain terms that it could negatively impact rankings.
Even though Google keeps the specifics of its search ranking algorithm to itself, knowing that speed is involved tells companies that improving in this area could see them ranked higher.
Some analysts have suggested Google’s Googlebot search software may simply stop indexing information from a page if it does not load in a certain amount of time, while others note that sites with a lot of returning customers are ranked higher by Google – and speedy sites tend to invite repeat use.
Google’s obsession with speed may feel like it imposing its values on a long-suffering world, but the fact is it is responding to customer demands. There have been several key studies over the years regarding web users’ impatience, with a Microsoft engineer stating that an extra waiting period of 250 milliseconds – less than a blink of an eye – can make a difference to visitor numbers.
According to Google, a 500 millisecond delay causes a 20 per cent drop in traffic, making plain the case for faster sites.
After Google’s announcement on speed was made, head of the company’s webspam team Matt Cutts published an insightful post on his blog. He stressed that speed was just one many factors taken into account in the firm’s algorithm and confirmed that a minority of search rankings would be seriously affected.
In his view, people should not panic about the issue, but instead realise that visitors will appreciate higher page-load speeds and it is a straightforward way of improving a person’s perception of their site. When Google talks, it pays to listen.
Author Bio:- This is a guest post by Chris Taylor, an experienced technology and business blogger at PEER1 Hosting- expert providers of web hosting, managed hosting and colocation services.