Will Google make page speed a ranking factor?

Google is obsessed with speed. A tremendous amount of corporate energy is being put into initiatives to speed up the web. Google’s Let’s make the web faster web page asks the question “What would be possible if browsing the web was as fast as turning the pages of a magazine?”. This clues us in to their goal – instant response.

To see Google engineers talk about this, check out the 3 1/2 minute video on this page. You can also check out the video on this page which includes the statement that 100 milliseconds is a recognized threshold for users to notice some sluggishness. You can also see more on Google’s thoughts on performance in this Jake Brutlag post titled: Speed Matters. The testing discussed in this post showed that small increases in load time of search results pages, less than 1/2 second, resulted in a decline in searches performed of 0.2% to 0.6%.

Google seems fully prepared to take on the task of rebuilding the Internet if need be, and they are challenging some of the most basic protocols on which the web was built. They have an initiative in place to re-design the HTTP: protocol. Their proposed protocol, known as SPDY: is designed for today’s web environment, which HTTP was not. Testing they have done on SPDY shows a 50% uplift in performance – not bad.

Google has also launched its own Public DNS. The DNS infrastructure plays a critical role in the web, that of converting human friendly web addresses, such as www.stonetemple.com, to machine friendly IP addresses, such as Today’s web pages often involve multiple DNS lookups to load. Speeding up these transactions can only improve overall performance.

The we have Chrome. CNet published a study comparing the Javascript performance of Chrome against two versions of IE, Firefox and Safari. Chrome offered 5x to 10x the performance in running the Javascript tests. Similar data was shown in tests performed by codemeit.

Google is providing some interesting tools for publishers as well. In December 2009 they announced Speed Tracer, a tool for monitoring page load time performance. One key component of the tool is that it allows you to graphically locate trouble spots and then drill down to see what the source of the problem is. In addition, Google Webmaster Tools allows you to get a close up look at your site’s performance:

WMT Speed Measurement Tool

The tool will also let you drill down and get specific suggestions from Google on how to improve site performance:

WMT Speed Up Suggestions

Last, but not least, at Pubcon 2009 in Las Vegas, Matt Cutts stated quite clearly that Site Speed would become a ranking factor. Of course, that does not necessarily mean it actually will be done, but when you look at the overall commitment that Google has to web performance, you can count on it. So when should you begin working on your site performance? I’d say now. Turn site speed into advantage for your business!


  1. says

    I think page speed is definitely going to be an important ranking signal for Google in the near future if not already. I think its logical really, as its all about user experience and Google want to offer the best results in terms of relevancy and in terms of speed.

  2. says

    I have been using webmaster tools for some time now but did not know about Speed Tracer – great tip!

    The speed of a website may be a good element to consider in SEO and I’d be very interested on how search engines would go about implementing it.
    I believe that many people online, especially in the blogging world have already realized the great impact on the user experience of pages loading quicker and websites functioning better. For example, this has also led to a rise in SEO themes which are making great use of optimized code.

  3. says

    My website is fairly fast, it loads in 4-5 seconds measured with Pingdom Tools, which I think is a good value for a photography portfolio, but still Google says that my site take 22.6 seconds to load. With the Page Speed tool I get an 80-84 / 100 ranking.

  4. says

    I think this would be a good idea.Many sites have lots of images on them that slow down the loading.If you can keep the loading time under 5 seconds people will stay on the site instead of leave.

  5. says

    I think it is so, because my homepage had some years a pagerank 5 and today I must see my pagerank is now only 3. The reason (I belive) my homepage-speed is to slow

    • says

      Hi Chris – My guess is that there is some other reason for the change in your PageRank. Google has indicated only that speed would be considered a small factor in search rankings in the future. PageRank, as you see it on the toolbar, is a purely mathematical rendering of the number and quality of links you have, and speed should not directly enter into that (indirectly, it may cause you to receive fewer links, or to lose the ones you have, which would then affect PageRank).

  6. says

    Hi Chris. I tend to agree with Eric on this one. Google does not place sufficient importance on the speed factor to drop your ranking to PR3. There are a whole host of reasons why it happened. You need to look at the whole picture.

  7. says

    Hey Eric Enge and mike,

    but what could be a reason to lost 2 point on the pagerankfactor. I have lots of Backlinks with high PR and fore some month had all my underpages a good pagerank and now on every page (included underpages) 2 points lesser.

    on the other site the pagerank indicator have lots of mathfactors but webmaster love this ranking.

    So at the moment (I think) I can´t do enything and have to wait to the next update.

    Thanks for your clue

  8. says

    hey Eric, i Checked out your Speed tracer tutorial on your given link in the content & was very informative. How do i make my website rank higher ? My website page rank is always showing 0.

    • says

      Hi Andrew – the basic way to get your PageRank to climb is by getting links from third party sites to yours. In general, you don’t want to buy links from other sites, so you need to have good content so that they will be willing to link to you. This is a whole massive topic, which I cover in great depth in the Professionals Guide to Link Building that I wrote for SEOmoz (http://www.seomoz.org/items/view/7). This costs a little money (I receive none of it), but is well worth it.

  9. says

    The speed factor will take away from the creativity factor of a site design. The visitor should be able to chose if He or She wants to wait for a site to load or not. It shouldn’t effect rankings.

  10. says

    iv’learned now that Google is all about speed, the faster the web, the greater the relevancy and conversion of the user, as the years progress that’s what people need, speed to get the job done faster

  11. says

    You definitely hit home with this one. We used to host our Pure Costumes site in a shared server. Due to the share processing, our site never rank well compare to others. We decided to switch to a dedicated server and were able to drop the page load by a few seconds. That makes a difference in our ranking for the term ‘Halloween Costumes’.

    • Eric Enge says

      I don’t know that there is a “best” time, but 2 to 3 seconds is an excellent target to shoot for.

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