Faster, Higher, Stronger?

Website speed might not just be important for user experience, it is now apparently also a crucial factor in search rankings, as revealed in the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog. Site speed in this context refers to the response time of the website. According to the post, Google Research studies have shown that

visitors generally tend to spend lesser time on a page that responds slowly, and this is possibly the motivation behind Google making site speed an integral factor for search rankings.

The authors go on to list a few useful tools that will help in evaluating site speed.

  • Page Speed: An open source add-on for Firefox/Firebug that evaluates the performance of web pages and gives suggestions for improvement.
  • YSlow:  A free tool from Yahoo! that suggests ways to improve website speed. Personally I really like the innovative name! 🙂
  • WebPagetest: It shows a waterfall view of your pages’  load performance along with an optimization checklist.
  • Google’s very own Webmaster Tools: You can go to Labs > Site Performance to see the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world.

This revelation has come under a lot of criticism as seen in the post’s comments. A lot of the commentators do not seem agree with the fact that site speed should be a factor in determining site rankings, as site speed can vary based on a lot of variables – including Flash applications, content with high resolution images, blogs that have many widgets, etc.

The post has however clarified that relevance to search

terms still remains the top priority for ranking. Site speed is just going to be one of the additional parameters that Google will consider in its ranking algorithm.

All said and done it does seem like ‘light weight’ is the new buzzword. What are your thoughts about this? Do let us know in the comments section!

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