Google announced last week that site speed is now a signal in its search ranking algorithms. Along with the hundreds of other signals, like link popularity and keyword relevance, Google is now factoring site speed (i.e., how quickly a website responds to web requests) into its rankings on search results pages.
Why Does Google Care About Speed?
Searchers presumably associate the quality of the page they land on with Google’s brand. If a page that Google ranks isn’t topically relevant, the searcher’s Google brand experience is negative. Google is taking that a step farther with this algorithm update, implying that a site that is slow to respond or load will also result in a negative search experience that reflects poorly on Google.
Google rolls these changes out slowly to avoid sudden shifts in rankings. Impacted sites will likely notice a gradual decline in rankings and organic search-referred traffic and sales as the site speed factor gradually impacts higher percentages of search queries.
Test Your Site Speed
Google Webmaster Tools recommends an assortment of tools to test site speed, including Google’s Page Speed, Yahoo! YSlow, and WebPageTest. If site speed is an issue according to these tools, a host of business or technical challenges could be contributing. Ecommerce sites tend to include a multitude of analytics and usability feature scripts that can contribute to slow response times, as well as hosting configurations that limit bandwidth available for a site.