Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Why Your Page Speed May Be Sabotaging Your Rankings

Google announced back in 2010 that Page Speed  — how quickly your web page downloads into a visitor’s browser  — would be a factor in rankings. That makes sense when you consider Google’s increasing emphasis on positive user experience.If you click on a first page result in Google and the page is annoyingly slow, Google looks bad for sending you there.

Page download speed can affect your rankings.Addressing page speed problems is a task for your webmaster, but knowing and caring about your page speed is your responsibility. The folks at Moz did a study a few weeks ago which showed that the “time to first bite” does, in fact, correlate with ranking position. Full time to completely download a page doesn’t seem to correlate with rankings,  but the time it takes for the first byte of your page to be received by your browser does seem to correlate with rankings.

What’s interesting about this is the fact that what mostly controls the time to first byte is not your website design but your web host and the efficiency of the web server housing your web pages.

That doesn’t mean the other measures of page download speed aren’t important. If a potential customer gets tired of waiting for everything on your page to appear and clicks away before the page is fully loaded, you’ve lost a potential customer regardless of how highly your page ranked.

What to take away from this:

  1. Your back end web server performance can affect your rankings. If you’re using a discount web hosting service, whether their speed is worse than other web hosts is something your webmaster would have to research for you.
  2. While time to fully download your web page may not affect rankings, it can affect overall user experience on your site and impact your conversion rate: the percentage of visitors who become customers.
  3. Bear in mind that Google has always maintained that quality content is king, so improving your page speed can’t make up for mediocre content on your web pages. Page speed is only one of about 200 factors that control your rankings.

How’s your time to first byte? Let us know in comments below.

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