How fast is your web site? You ask yourself that question all the time, right? You don’t want your customers waiting around for pages to load, and you certainly can’t risk losing the interest of someone new as they wait to see your web site for the first time.
It’s the biggest, if not only reason we’ve long recommended against heavy use of Flash. Now Google has added a reason for you to care about the speed of your web site: faster web sites will get higher rankings.
This troubles me.
While it’s obvious that faster is better, making speed a component of the formula that decides who matters most favors the better-capitalized business over the smaller one, further diluting the democratization of the web. In other words, if you have a better server with better bandwidth, this gives you an advantage.
But that advantage has nothing to do with the quality, accuracy, or popularity of your content
The place this is most concerning is when a web site is hosted on a shared server and/or using a shared IP address. Somewhere, servers have built into their operating parameters a “maximum connections” rule. If you’re buying the typical $10/month hosting plan, therefore aren’t a machine-level administrator, and are sharing space with 400-500 other web sites, this can REALLY smoke your results. Imagine GoogleBot crawling for you, finding that your server can’t/won’t respond quickly because your site is queued to respond behind a dozen or two of your co-hosted sites which have received requests for information at the same time as yours—maybe even from Google—and therefore sees you as being “slow”.
You’re now going to be rank-penalized because:
- A) you have a cheap plan (MAYBE fair) and
- B) at the moment Google came knockin’ your neighbors were creating traffic and making noise and so Google thought you weren’t home (NOT fair).
There’s some good news here: slow-performing web site elements will be cut back. The Flash-heavy aspects I referred to above are almost certain to become less and less prevalent, and sites that call dozens of advertising elements every time you load a page are going to have to change the way they do things or face the ire of Google as their SEO rankings drop lower and lower over time.
But if concern for how search engines see sites drives business process you might also find a bias toward going back to the way web sites looked circa 1999.
In the statistics Google is making available to me as of this writing, the three web sites I control have very different speed results.
- answerguy.com takes 1.6 seconds to load a page (82nd Percentile)
- pc-vip.com takes 0.3 seconds (99th Percentile)
- hatetexting.com loads a page in 0.9 seconds (95th Percentile)
Why the disparity? Here are a few points:
- Answer Guy Central and PC-VIP are hosted on the same machine, while I Hate Texting is hosted elsewhere, so we know it isn’t just the machine creating the results.
- PC-VIP is the only one of the three web sites that uses (minimal) Flash, Answer Guy uses a Content Management System, and I Hate Texting is as simple as simple can be. This says that I Hate Texting ought to be the fastest, but it’s right in the middle.
- PC-VIP shouldn’t manage to be as fast as it is, but because the measurement is “per page” and what looks to a human like one page is actually three in the eyes of a search engine delivering a measurement, its numbers are amazing.
- Answer Guy, fully 500% slower than PC-VIP, still manages to load a tremendous amount of information at a speed that’s faster than 82% of all web sites.
Given how much information is loaded when you ask for a page here at Answer Guy Central, I’m pleased that it takes “only” 1.6 seconds to load. But what if Google decides that’s “slow”?
Is your head spinning?
Keep an eye on this; it could have a big impact on the way you’re seen on the Internet. Contact Us if you want help. And please: when you work on your SEO plans, make sure you take everything into account.