It's official: Google uses page speed as a ranking factor
Last Friday, Google announced that they started to use site speed as one of the 200 signals that influence the position of a website in the search results:
"As part of that effort, today we're including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.
We've decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites."
Will your website rankings drop?
Google's Matt Cutts says that the change will affect only some websites:
"Fewer than 1% of search queries will change as a result of incorporating site speed into our ranking. That means that even fewer search results are affected, since the average search query is returning 10 or so search results on each page.
So please don’t worry that the effect of this change will be huge. In fact, I believe the official blog post mentioned that 'We launched this change a few weeks back after rigorous testing.'
The fact that not too many people noticed the change is another reason not to stress out disproportionately over this change."
slowWhile 1% does not sound much, it can be a problem if your website belongs to the pages whose rankings will drop.
At this time, Google's new site speed signal only applies to visitors searching in English on Google.com.
How to keep your web pages listed in Google search results
There are several things that you can do to improve the speed of your web pages:
1. Choose a fast and reliable web host with a good connection to the Internet. A "cheap" web host could cause problems.
4. Combine external CSS files into one file and compress your CSS files.
5. If your web server supports it, enable gZip compression (your web host can do that for you).
6. Use as few images as possible on your website and compress your images. Most graphic tools enable you to choose the compression rate when saving an image for the web.
The faster your web pages load, the more visitors of your website will be able to see the contents of your pages. Web surfers are impatient people. The average web surfer wants immediate results.
Page speed is not Google's most important ranking signal. The end of Google's page speed announcement contains a very important sentence: "While site speed is a new signal, it doesn't carry as much weight as the relevance of a page."
It is important to optimize the speed of your web pages but it's also important to optimize all other elements of your web pages if you want to be listed on Google's first result page.