Google has announced they’re adding site speed to their search ranking algorithms. This comes after some grumblings within Google last year to start counting site speed as a ranking factor. Based on Google’s own experiments with search results, they’ve determined that slowing page results by 100 to 400 milliseconds had an impact on the number of searches per user which ranged from -0.2% to -0.6%. While seemingly minor, this can obviously prove to negatively affect a site over time.
There are two ways in which Google will measure page speed: how the page responds to Googlebot and how the load time is measured by the Google Toolbar. There is also a page speed report within the Webmasters Tools in Google labs, which was uploaded this past December. The report shows a site’s speed over time and offers suggestions on how to speed it up.
Google also has stated that site speed does not carry nearly as much weight as relevance of a page; quality of the page is still held with the highest regard. Currently, this new factor only affects less than 1% of results.
Considering that Google has added site speed while considering ranking, it is important to optimize sites to keep in line with the new algorithm. There are several ways in which a site speed can be improved:
Optimize images & image format
Optimizing images is an easy way to increase site speed. Image optimizing can be done in image editing program such as Photoshop. By using the correct image format (gif, jpg, and png) along with saving images specifically for the web, the file size of images can be reduced dramatically.
There are many ways to optimize a site’s CSS. Simple practices, such as using shorthand to define related properties using group selectors for elements with the same properties, and removing large amounts of blank space in a style sheet, can aid in optimizing CSS.
Minimize HTTP requests
This can be done by simplifying page design. Combining files is a great way to keep the page design simple by doing such things as combining all CSS into a single style sheet. Other techniques, such as using CSS sprites which compress a pages background images into one file, greatly reduce the number of requests as well.
Rocket Clicks Staff
Search Engine Land – Google Now Counts Site Speed as a Ranking Factor
Google Webmaster Central Blog – Using Site Speed in Web Search Ranking
Google Research Blog – Speed Matters