Nobody likes slow web sites, but did you know that it affects your search results? Google is on the record as saying that site performance is a key factor in both organic and paid search results. The other search engines might be doing the same thing. So, if your site has always been a little sluggish during peak times, or just a bit pokey all the time, it might be hurting you in ways that you don't realize.

It's always been true that a slow-loading site can hurt your organic search results. Sites that load more slowly aren't crawled as often or as deeply. The spider will spend only so much time on your site, so the faster it responds, the more pages get indexed. If your site loads slowly, some of your pages might not be indexed, which means they will not be found in a search.

My own IBM RS/6000 Enterprise Server model H70

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Recently, Google has publicly spoken about going even further, actually using page load speed as a ranking factor. Faster loading pages might rank higher than slow pokes.

But many people don't know that a slow-loading site can hurt your paid search results, also. Google has publicly discussed how slow-loading sites have lower quality scores. For the uninitiated. the quality score is Google's name for all of the other factors it weighs in paid search, besides the standard bid and clickthrough rate factors. The quality score can hold just about any factor that Google determines produces better results, and page speed is one of them.

Not everyone can afford that top-of-the-line high-speed server, but you might want to examine your budget again. If your pages could load faster than they do now, it's worth looking into. Whether you invest in faster hardware or smarter techies, it's important that you make sure that put your fastest foot forward. Your customers always appreciate a speedy site, but it affects your search results, too.

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March 29, 2010

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


Were you too lazy to even make it to the second paragraph of the article you linked to?

"it is not even clear if Google will go down that route"

Even the first paragraph says that it MIGHT become a factor in 2010.

That's quite different than "on the record as saying that site performance is a key factor".

Have another link that actually backs up your claims?

Easy there, Brian. :-)

My "claim" was that faster pages might rank higher than slower pages and I linked to an article where Google publicly discussed that they are considering that. I'm sorry that the article disappointed you so much, but a lot of people don't realize that slow servers already hurt them in search and it's possible that Google might expect even more in the future. If my article misled you in any way, I am sorry.

I'm fully agree with that.. according to stats I read somewhere several days ago, during last 3-4 years overall bandwidth increased in times and now user become angry of page loads average on 10th second, especially if no loading indicator presence on page..

Google is really on a speed kick right now which leads me to wonder what they have in store for all of us. It will be interesting to see what happens when the Caffeine update goes through because this speed initiative they have been rolling must have something to do with newly scheduled update.

I agree Maciej. You can look at their free city-wide Wi-fi experiment and their speedier DNS offering--there are probably other examples--as all part of a pattern of Google pushing the Internet for speed. Lack of load speed might be hurting your site now, but it's sure to hurt as time goes on. We just don't know when.


I really respect you, and didn't notice until after I submitted the comment that it was you that wrote this. But when you have a sentence reading, "Google is on the record as saying that site performance is a key factor in both organic and paid search results", you're not saying "faster pages might rank higher than slower pages." Those are very different sentences, and you're normally on top of things like that.

Until it's truly in the algo, saying they're on the record with it being a key factor is in fact a false statement. Warning that it's on the way is something totally different and I can agree with.

Yes, we should get as many people off of crappy shared hosts that make pages take all day to load as we can and onto some amazing IBM hardware. We recently upgraded to some much beefier servers ourselves, but not because of Google. We upgrade servers regularly for the end user. If it gives us a benefit in Google's eyes, great, but there are so many better reasons to invest in hardware than Google. After all, Googlebot doesn't buy anything from our site no matter how many times it visits.

Not a problem, Brian. I've been called worse than lazy (sometimes by my own family).

Maybe I should have written the post more clearly, but Google (and other search engines) have long discussed how there is a time budget for crawling sites, so having a slow server definitely hurts you in getting pages indexed and keeping them fresh. And the quote from Matt Cutts indicates that it might become even more important. That's all I was trying to say.

If your pages don't get indexed, that is a key factor in search results. And it might become part of the ranking algorithm. That's what I was trying to say, and I think what I wrote is still correct, but I do apologize if you found it misleading. I will try to be more careful and explain things more clearly in the future.

If you were confused by what I was saying, then others were, too, so thanks for calling me on it so I can explain better what I mean.

So if googles taking into account slow websites what about down time, this is something most webmasters can't change if you hosting with a bad host.

Down time is a killer, Jonny, not for result ranking, but for crawling. If the spider comes crawling and your site is down, it goes away until next time, which could be a few weeks or months away. If the spider comes back a few times in a row with your site down, it might conclude that the whole site has been removed--it then removes your pages from the index. Few of us need to worry about that nightmare scenario unless we are working with a truly poor hosting company, but if that is your situation, it's critical that you get to a good host immediately.

Yea, but then Matt later said that the speed thing might not even show up till late 2010...

I'm all for faster sites tho. I wish I could get wordpress rockin a bit better...

Well to some degree I'm sure that page load/server speed has played a part for some time now. Mostly if a bot takes too long to download a page it may simply leave the page or return an error - there are pages that bad out there!

From an end user perspective, it's best practice to ensure that your pages load as quickly as possible. But lets face it, we could serve the bots a single page of text and have 1,001 other things load from external sources for the visitors so this may not be as important as it may at first seem.

From what I've been able to find, this is more of a tie breaker in the making. If it would seem that two pages are similarly ranked then the faster loading one should be returned first. But no doubt we'll all be able to have a better idea in the near future.


I'm siding with you on this one...

Don't care what Google says or doesn't say. I know for a fact that after downtime and during times when my shared hosting server was slow, I saw a marked decline in Google organic referred traffic. Whether they're just testing the waters is not really relevant, business impact is at stake here and webmasters and marketers need to be aware of how their site's speed affects page rank and quality score.

I recently just switched over to a higher performance virtual private server, but at the same time I decreased a bunch of external DNS calls, redundant JS functions and scrapped a ton of unused applications that only slowed down load time and I couldn't be happier. And my Google organic traffic? It's steadily growing week-over-week.

However, it must be said: if you use Google Webmaster Tools and observe an increase in page load time, don't panic. If you observe a marked difference in your analytics, start to worry. If you're on the ball, you can try using Webmaster Tools to request a reconsideration for your site. That can usually help recover from a drop in organic rankings while giving you precious time to determine the root cause of your site issues.


Google has made it official:

" we're including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed."

The announcement also states:

"We launched this change a few weeks back after rigorous testing."

You were right on the money, as usual, Mike.

Thanks for posting that, Robert. I hope that our readers got a little bit of a head start from my post.

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