Website speed has become an important advantage in our increasingly wired world. The speed of your site can effect a number of important factors including conversion rates, bounce rates, loyalty, and as of 2010 search rankings. This article sheds some light on how website speed can effect Google rankings.
Google Factors Speed into Search Rankings
By now you've no doubt read that Google is factoring in website speed into search rankings. In early 2010 Google posted on their official blog that site speed has become one of their 200+ ranking factors (Google 2010). Faster websites create happier users and longer stay times, and Google wants to provide a positive experience for its users.
Slow Mobile Sites and Search Rankings
In 2013 Matt Cutts warned webmasters that a site speed ranking factor would likely be added for mobile sites (Search Engine Land, 2013). Google recommends responsively designed websites when optimizing for mobile devices (Google 2013). What isn't entirely clear is if Google will penalize a desktop site's rankings for a slow mobile site, or penalize the mobile site only for slow mobile performance. Since the average mobile site speed penalty is about 50% (King 2014) webmasters should err on the side of caution when designing and optimizing their mobile sites.
Slow Sites Reduce Google Rankings and Page Indexing
Even though Google said that speed will effect only a small percentage of search rankings, we've seen evidence recently that poor and inconsistent site speed can reduce rankings and the number of pages indexed. For a recent example we moved a site from a slow mass web host to a faster server with fewer sites, and found time to first byte (TTFB) times were reduced by 82% for cable connections (King 2014). Before the move the site had TTFB times of up to 60 seconds, and slow, inconsistent load times. The slowly served site also had a reduced number of pages indexed due to crawl issues, and reduced rankings.
TTFB and load times improved significantly after the move, and the number of pages indexed and search rankings improved significantly. Response time variability decreased by nearly 7X (6.7) for cable connections and over 500X for DSL users. Consistently fast response times make for happier users who can "attune" to a site's speed and plan accordingly.
TTFB and Search Rankings
With Google's warnings about site speed impacting search rankings, how does web page speed actually effect rankings? To find the answer, Moz.com and Zoompf ran a study using 2000 random search queries. The results show that TTFB correlates with the search rankings of a web page, but load times did not (Moz.com 2013). TTFB is the time it takes a server to respond with the first byte of data after a browser request. One study showed that TTFB was the largest component of web page latency, contributing from 37% to 57% to page load times (Habib & Abrams 2000).
Web page speed is clearly an important factor in website success. Google now factors page speed into both desktop and mobile site rankings. Having a consistently "responsive"
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