Everyone can understand the huge benefits that come with ranking well in the major search engines, especially Google. Google currently uses about 200 ranking factors in their algorithm. These ranking factors and Google's algorithm are changing constantly. It is very important to keep on top of the ranking factors that are most important to Google, such as how fast your page loads.
Late last year, it was announced that site speed and page load time could potentially be the next new ranking factors in the Google algorithm. It is not known how much weight Google places on these ranking factors but it is believed that while slow page load times won't negatively impact your rankings, fast page load times may have a positive effect and help a site move up in search result pages.
Matt Cutts of Google explained at numerous conferences in late 2009 that Google wants the search experience to be as fast as possible and compared searching to flipping through a magazine. This was the idea that led them to add site speed as a factor to Google's algorithm. Site speed is also very important since users expect a fast web browsing experience. If your site can't deliver this, the user will move on to another site that can and this could potentially be the site of your competition.
How can you be sure that your site is up to speed?
There are numerous factors that may lead to a slow loading website, some are more technical than others. A few of these factors include:
- the use of very large and/or too many images
- bad coding (excesive use of extra HTML markup)
- use of excess spaces and comments,
- improper placement and inefficient crafting of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
- overuse of Flash
- large videos that play onload
- improper optimization of images (or the lack of image optimization)
All of these could potentially cause slow loading webpages which lead to frustrated users and a bad user experience. These are serious issues that need to be addressed.
Like many site owners, you may not be sure how your site is currently performing in terms of site speed. There are numerous tools that can measure the speed of your website and help you find ways to improve your site's loading time. A few of these tools are outlined below:
YSlow from Yahoo: Yahoo’s YSlow is an addon for Firebug (used with Firefox). This tool delivers an easy to use and comprehensive report that explains how fast/slow your website loads. Yahoo even goes a step further by providing tips on how to improve your site speed.
Google's Page Speed: Google also offers its own tool for measuring/accessing page speed. Google's Page Speed is an open-source Firefox/Firebug add-on. Site owners can utilize this tool and evaluate the performance of their website and get suggestions on how to improve them.
Pagetest: This tool can be used right in your browser. Pagetest is easy to use and delivers a very accurate measure of what a real user experiences on your site since it uses a real web browser to access the content on a website.
Pingdom Tools: This full page testing tool loads complete HTML pages including all objects and mimics the way a page is loaded in a web browser.
Whether or not site speed will indeed become one of the 200+ ranking factors in Google's algorithm, a fast loading site provides many benefits to a site owner. Web users expect (I may even say demand) fast web browsing. These expectations have doubled in the past 2 years and will only continue to grow. Your site needs to deliver what users expect.
Fast loading pages also play a major role in how users view your site and its authority. Fast loading and easy to use/browse sites are more likely to generate quality links, return visitors, and be shared through social media than websites that load slowly and deliver a poor user experience.
So, start testing your website today and make all the necessary improvements and changes to ensure that your site is up to par in terms of speed. Not only will this improve the user experience and deliver what web users expect, it might even improve your position in Google's almighty search result pages.