Google adds page load times to search rankings formula

Speed is added to the mysterious Google page rankings melting pot as search giant tries to encourage webmasters to take a closer look at page load times.

fast web

Google has announced it has added page load times as one of the factors it uses to determine search result rankings.

The search engine's algorithm for determining search results is both highly complex and highly secretive, with Google constantly tweaking the formula to keep it as fair as possible while also staying one step ahead of scammers looking to exploit the system.

However, by incorporating page load times Google has added an all-new criterion for judging sites, a move that was first announced last November in an attempt to put pressure on webmasters to keep load times as short as possible.

Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts announced the change on Friday on the Google Webmaster Central blog, saying improving page load times would lead internet users to spend more time on the site, and also reduce operating costs.

"Speeding up websites is important not just to site owners, but to all internet users," the post read. "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."

However, the pair were quick to point out that site speed would only play a very small part in determining a page ranking, and was nowhere near as important as relevance. Indeed, with Google looking at an estimated 200-plus individual factors when determining page ranking, load times are only likely to have a significant effect should the page in question take 20 seconds or longer to load.

While the new algorithm has in fact been in use for several weeks already, so far it has been restricted to English language searches launched from the US portal Google.com.

Singhal and Cutts suggested several tools to help site owners or webmasters boost their site's loading times, including the Page Speed add-on for Firefox that evaluates web page performance and gives suggestions for improvement. Further information on that and other tools can be found on the Google code Speed page.

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