It’s Offi­cial; Google now uses Page Speed as a rank­ing sig­nal for organ­ic search results!  While we first report­ed that Page Speed was being con­sid­ered as a rank­ing fac­tor back in Novem­ber 2009, speed has always been impor­tant at Google.  Google’s home­page for exam­ple is inten­tion­al­ly sparse, designed to load quick­ly on any device.  In fact, it’s said that ear­ly on Lar­ry Page fanat­i­cal­ly obsessed over “shav­ing every excess bit and byte” from Google’s pages to increase effi­cien­cy.  Our own Bri­an Ussery recent­ly spoke at SMX with a dis­tin­guished group includ­ing Maile Ohye from Google about “The Need For Speed: Google Says It Mat­ters”. Accord­ing to Google, users want answers and they want them right now.  As quot­ed in one of Google’s first cor­po­rate infor­ma­tion pages, “Where oth­ers accept­ed appar­ent speed lim­its imposed by search algo­rithms, Google wrote new algo­rithms that proved there were no lim­its. And Google con­tin­ues to work on mak­ing it all go even faster.”

The first research into the impacts of speed, “Response time in man-com­put­er con­ver­sa­tion­al trans­ac­tions”, was con­duct­ed by Robert B. Miller over 40 years ago and his find­ings are still valid today.  Miller found that when a com­put­er responds in 110 of a sec­ond, the user feels like the sys­tem is react­ing instan­ta­neous­ly and as a result the user feels like he/she is in con­trol.  Accord­ing to Miller, 1.0 sec­ond is about the lim­it for the user’s flow of thought to stay unin­ter­rupt­ed.  In 2009, Akamai/Forrester found that users expect web pages to load in two sec­onds or less.  Accord­ing to this study, “40 per­cent of con­sumers will wait no more than three sec­onds for a web page to ren­der before aban­don­ing the site.”  Bing and Google inde­pen­dent­ly con­duct­ed their own laten­cy exper­i­ments in 2008 and reached sim­i­lar con­clu­sions.  When intro­duced a 2 sec­ond increase in load time, it reduced user queries by 1.8% and rev­enue per user by 4.3%. Google’s find­ings were sim­i­lar.  When Google intro­duced a 400 mil­lisec­ond delay, they saw 0.59% loss in search­es.  Even after the tests were com­plete, these users con­duct­ed 0.21% few­er search­es, pos­si­bly indi­cat­ing a longer term impact.

StopwatchThe good news is, 80% to 90% of page response time is spent on the front-end and not impact­ed by host­ing; mean­ing, there is a lot that web­mas­ters and SEOs can do to increase page speed, decrease aban­don­ment and now, increase rank­ings.  Increas­ing page load times is a spe­cial­ty of Search Dis­cov­ery and an area that we’ve been focused on for years.  To see how fast your pages load, check out the site per­for­mance tab in Google Web­mas­ter Tools or Google’s Page Speed tool.

Thanks to all these great new tools, hope­ful­ly soon we’ll be able to retire our stop­watch.  If you have ques­tions about Page Speed or any oth­er SEO relat­ed issues please let us know, we’re hap­py to help you improve the vis­i­bil­i­ty of your site in SERPs too.