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 1/10 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 Bing.com 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.
The 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.