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Page loading time: A new ranking factor

digital stop watchIn June I published an article titled: Blogging: Strategies for reducing page loading time that contains links to online page loading time checkers, and ten tips bloggers can use to make their pages load faster.

The news is that Matt Cutts of Google is emphasizing the importance of page loading speed when it comes to getting your site contents indexed and the experience of users, and it’s likely to become a ranking factor in 2010.

Here’s the link to an exclusive webpronews video interview with Cutts wherein he’s  discussing Google Caffeine, which will be rolling out on all the data centers in January, and page loading speed, which Google may indeed begin taking into consideration as a ranking factor in the new year.

There’s more to be found on Google’s Page Speed page.

Page Speed is an open-source Firefox/Firebug Add-on, that performs several tests on a site’s web server configuration and front-end code. These Page Speed tests are based on a set of best practices known to enhance web page performance, and are aimed at  evaluating the performance web pages and making suggestions on how to improve them. Download link and installation information.

For more information, on the upcoming changes you may benefit by watching two videos: Open Sourcing Page Speed video and Let’s make the web faster.

Website Speed Test
Optimizing your web page loading time is essential for keeping your visitors. If your pages load time is too long due to un-optimized images, people simply leave your site before it is loaded!

Web Page Analyzer – 0.964 – from Website Optimization – Free Website Performance Tool and Web Page Speed Analysis

This is a free web site speed test to improve website performance. Enter a URL to calculate page size, composition, and download time. The script calculates the size of individual elements and sums up each type of web page component. Based on these page characteristics the script then offers advice on how to improve page load time. The script incorporates best practices from HCI research and web site optimization techniques into its recommendations.

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15 thoughts on “Page loading time: A new ranking factor

  1. Yes and does that mean that blogspot/blogger is going to get cleaned up? I know google owns it and well there are coding and things that I can’t do anything about it because of the way blogspot/blogger (aka google) insist that it needs to be done “their” way.

    • As Google owns Blogger and Adsense and have made no clean-up efforts in the past or recently IMHO it’s unlikely that this change will motivate them to make any clean-up efforts, but I could be wrong.

      (1) One would hope at the very least that they will get around to providing blogspot bloggers with themes that actually validate. At present one can try a theme Blogger provides right out of the box on a brand new blogger blog by clicking it from the dashboard. Then without creating a single post one can take the url for that site and run it through wc3 validator online and the result can be over 300 errors in HTML mark-up and more errors in CSS as well.
      Given that then expecting them to provide optimized themes to blogspot bloggers may be right over the top.

      (2) I observe that in many cases it’s bloggers themselves who are overloading their themes with images lacking alternate text and descriptions, widgets, gadgets, javascript, bad script, video and audio embeds, etc. and all of these slow page loading time.

      (3) In addition there are many bloggers who load down their front pages with far too many posts, which also slows page loading time. While we are on that subject there is a solid reason to reduce the number of posts on a front page and it is that some search engine spiders stop indexing when they reach around 100 posts on any page.

      I’ve stated my opinion above. To paraphrase “IMO making page loading time a ranking factor is a case of discrimination plain and simple. Obviously this is aimed at favoring the big guys with deep pockets, who blog for bucks and that sucks. … I smell the faster – bigger- better instant gratification agenda based on the avarice and psychosis depicted in film, The Corporation.”

  2. I’m not going to debate what website visitors want. It’s clear to me that, if this policy does go through, Google has gone beyond its mandate. I predict that their directory will become poisoned with spam sites that are able to afford faster hosting.

    My problem continues to be: what does site loading speed have to do with relevance?

    Who is prepared to say that given two sites (of unknown quality), the faster one should be ranked higher?

    What if there are network problems when Googlebot visits my site? Do I drop in the rankings?

  3. @Collin
    It’s great to hear from you because it’s been a very long time since we connected. I’m LOL :D at your report but not in a nasty way. ;)

  4. I had to laugh, I tried the last link to the web page optimizer, gave it a url from a random post on my blog, processed the CAPTCHA and set it going. 5 minutes later it’s still trying to re-load the page!

    Oh, Hi by the way! :) :)

  5. @Everyone
    Since when did speed and relevance become synonymous? Since when did faster become synonymous with better results?

    IMO making page loading time a ranking factor is a case of discrimination plain and simple. Obviously this is aimed at favoring the big guys with deep pockets, who blog for bucks and that sucks. These Google buddies can afford to hire technical experts and employ technologies to create speedy loading. They can afford independent hosting, rather than shared hosting, so I’m sure they are rubbing their hands together with glee. Why? Because making page loading speed a ranking factor means whether or not the big guys have “the best” to offer they will reap benefits twice over by securing more traffic that leads to higher revenue and by achieving higher PageRanks too. This is not to mention that the biggest beneficiary by far would be Google.

    Meanwhile the little local guys who have business sites and blogs on shared servers, who cannot afford to pay for technical expertise, gadgetry or independent hosting, little guys, who may also include those with sites that do not derive a benefit from Google ads at all, will be penalized twice over. They will lose both traffic and PageRank, even if they have “the best” information goods, and services to offer.

    I don’t consider that discriminatory move to be laudable nor, do I consider it to be in keeping with the ideology that built the web, and is still embraced by the open source community. I smell the faster – bigger- better instant gratification agenda based on the avarice and psychosis depicted in film, The Corporation.

  6. I think perhaps google is getting consumer friendly. I personally avoid blogs completely if they take long to load, and I don’t care how good they are. Sorry, I have no time, and no blog is so unique that I have to waste my precious time! I also avoid blogs full of clutter. So I think google is getting it right.

    • I don’t like experiencing slow loading sites either. I don’t think anyone does. I use a firefox browser and watch what’s being loaded. If I see that the slow loadingis due to avertising pop-ups etc. I click out.

      If I see a beginner business person or blogger does not know that the HTML does not load until the scripts are loaded, and has far to many of them running, then I approach them using the comment box and making appropriate suggestions.

      If I see that a site is overburdened with embeds, gadgets, widgets, plugins and other useless “tat” that are slowing page loading time, I approach them using the comment box and make suggestions for improvement.

      Does leaving links to my relevant blog posts on the subject of reducing page loading time amount to spamming? I don’t think so.

      I blog because it’s my passion. I learn and I share what I learn about how to be a better blogger and how to build a better blog, and where to locate free resources with anyone who chooses to read.

      I receive zero income from blogging on this site and on my other sites. In fact, blogging on my own domains costs me money.

  7. WordPress blogs are ridiculously slow compared to either all-html pages or other CMS’s that serve dynamically-generated pages. Each wordpress page may require 10 or more database queries, especially if a lot of plugins are loaded. If Google begins to shake things up re: page loading time, hopefully we’ll see the wordpress team spend their efforts on improving the core code instead of adding bells and whistles. Currently, without a caching plugin, WordPress may not be fast enough for all but the least-visited blogs.

    Page loading time for my site seems to vary unpredictably, from acceptable to downright ridiculously slow. I think it’s one of the very real disadvantages inherent in using ‘shared’ hosting instead of a dedicated server: you never know what the other sites on the machine are doing. If Google begins to favor fast-responding sites, I suspect a lot of hosting companies are going to be deluged with complaints.

    Thanks for the links to the speed tests!

    • I have experienced self hosted wordpress blogs running too many plugins. As I read many blogs and have a blogspot blog myself I can’t help but notice that the majority of the sites that I tend to visit once and click out of never to return again are blogspot blogs.

      I have a self hosted wordpress site and I am well known as a minimalist. I run very few plugins on my domain.

      What I have come to know is that many bloggers are like magpies, who pick up every shiny object in sight and drop it into their nest.

      I experience bloggers who are making money from their sites but who are loathe to spend any on an optimized theme. I witness sites with numerous HTML errors, CSS errors, too many posts on the front page, too many images on the front page, too many animated icons, embeds, etc., broken links and mile long blogrolls.

      Every week I discover yet another blogger, who doesn’t have a clue about how to reduce page loading time and what leads to it’s increase.

      Caching plugin – good point. Focus on the core, rather than bells and whistles – good point.

  8. Landing page load time has been an Adwords Quality Score factor since March 2008 so Google has been rewarding fast loading websites for some time and its one of their founding principles “fast is better than slow”, this is the next evolution.

    “I guess I don’t get what site load speed has to with SEO.”

    Matt Cutts works for Goggle and Google cares about fast web pages load because website visitors prefer a website to be fast. This move by Google is about improving user experience and ‘encouraging’ that to happen by increasingly highlighting that they view it as important. If it becomes a ranking factor then yes, it has obvious implications for SEO. Latency is not the users responsibility to fix e.g. get a faster connection, its about web design and development and how optimized sites are developed for high performance.

    If your/your customers site is on a dedicated server you’ll have the luxury of being able to use something like the website accelerator from Aptimize – if you’re on shared hosting you may also have options in the form of plugins and add-ons, depending on the cms you use – though not as effective, they offer some optimization. We will also see hosting companies scrambling to offer faster websites as a service offering. Interesting times ahead.

  9. So bad content that loads faster gets higher search engine ranking?

    Or is Google trying to put slow ISPs out of business?

    I don’t understand why I should be penalized for factors out of my control, such as network outages or someone else’s slow connection.

    I guess I don’t get what site load speed has to do with SEO.

    • @JP
      Hey there. I wondered if anyone out there would pick up on that. As you contributed to the first post I published on page loading speed, I even thought of tweeting you about it earlier today and here you are.

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