While rumors have floated around that Google was now considering site speed as one its ranking factors, Google finally christened the rumor with an announcement on its Webmaster Central Blog. They also list tools for helping assist those looking to boost the speed of their sites.
Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.
One way I’ve always tired to simplify Google’s ranking factors for friends and clients is to have them think of Google’s business model. Google’s dominance depends on its ability to return the most relevant results to its users. If users stop believing that Google is providing them with the most relevant results for their searches, they’ll go elsewhere (essentially what happened to Yahoo! in the late 90’s). It’s not hard to imagine why/how returning sites with extremely slow load times wouldn’t be so beneficial for Google.
A Big Deal
Often times, SEOs debate over what are really minute matters, and they spend time debunking the same myths over and over that very few SEOs believe anymore. But the core of SEO never really changes: Good content, and good linking (and the second one is largely dependent on the first). Most of what SEOs debate are in regards to factors within these two. How important is article syndication? Which link directories are still worth purchasing from and how do I get new/better links? How many instances of keywords can/should I add before I start to devalue the quality of my content? What ratio should I use for top domain linking vs deep linking?
What this does is give SEO a whole new factor to consider, and it’s hardly a minute detail. No doubt, a stronger market will now exist for people who can optimize site speed and designer/developers will be pressured more than ever to code in an organized manner.