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.