Site Speed Now A Google SEO Priority

Google continues to look at user experience in delivering search results. In the past, we noticed results that include photos, videos or news feeds for a certain search query. Then we observed that search results are based on where the search query originated. Now, we hear Google emphasize user experience again through website loading speed, same as what I wrote late last year. It’s no brainer that we prefer to visit websites that load quickly over those that display elaborate splashy intros before we see what we’re looking for. And Google sees this as a vital element in rewarding fast loading websites with more prominent search engine rankings.

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimshannon/

Why Site Speed is Important to Google
As Google’s Amit Singhal would explain,

Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users.

If I may add, speeding up the website is also important to Google’s reputation. The more relevant search results Google displays, the more trustworthy it is. But Google goes further. What if the relevant search result is a website hosted on a slow server or has page elements that take too much time to load? Google has found out that the slower a page loads, the less time a visitor spends on it, a clear sign of poor user experience. Thus, if Google displays slow-loading pages on search results and subsequently end up in poor usability, such experience would leave bad impression on Google, albeit indirectly.

Tools and Resources for Webmasters
For webmasters who wish to get more information, Google has tons of resources to help improve speed of websites they manage, including tools to measure speed. Other tools endorsed include Google’s Page Speed, Yahoo! YSlow, and WebPageTest. Google Webmaster Tools features Site Performance reports that outline loading speed and recommendations on how to improve it.

gwt-chartSample report from Google Webmaster Tools’ Site Performance Report

Fixing Slow Websites
If we find out that our website has low speed, then it’s about time to review best practice web design. Whether this means applying table-less structure websites, placing scripts at the bottom or placing stylesheets at the top of the page, something needs to be done. Yahoo! Developer Network has a good set of guidelines on speeding up our websites. So instead of spending time on adding useless extra codes such as “Revisit-After”, crafting Meta Keywords tag (which Google openly acknowledges as not a basis for ranking) or practicing other SEO myths, webmasters now have something more sensible thing to do to optimize websites for visitors and search engines.