Which Came First? Speed, SEO or the EGG?

SEO is all about performance. Google and Yahoo/Bing care about performance and user experience. Site speed is really important to users so by default it is equally valuable to SEO and ranking. Speed isn’t an easy demon to catch. With more than 200 ranking factors used in Google’s algorithm, why pay attention to speed? It requires excellent programming skills, the best hosting services and extremely talented web designers to make a beautiful fast website. It’s so much easier and cheaper to just ignore speed. Some people including Google’s Matt Cutts will tell you that speed isn’t all that important to SEO and ranking. Now lets look at some concrete reasons why you shouldn’t listen to them and put speed at the top of your SEO list.

Users Love Speed
Proven through countless studies, the effectiveness and usability of websites are impacted by speed. Speed increased conversion rates, shares and tweets. Users directly influence rankings through their behavior which means that speed in turn impacts many other ranking factors. Moreover, try to create “loyal” customers without a fast website. Good luck with that one.

Speed and Panda Emerged Together
According to Google, the Panda update looks at an entire site’s “quality” rather than grading all of the pages on a site separately. Similarly, speed is usually a site specific rather than a page specific metric. This is because speed is dramatically impacted by a site’s hosting and servers. Language and particularly using PHP for your entire website can increase speed while reducing hosting fees. PHP and fast hosting distinguishes the professionals from the amateurs on the Internet. This isn’t necessarily about big vs. small players although big companies tend to have faster websites. This is about technical sophistication and good code vs. hacks and code filled with junk. Clean code is another ranking factor that goes hand in hand with site speed. In addition, speed in more difficult to manipulate than content.

Google Labs has been concentrating on page speed simultaneously beside Panda. They have developed a new tool for speed optimization called Page Speed Online and they have released something called Page Speed Service. Why would Google go to all this trouble if page speed didn’t factor largely into their future plans?

Being First and Fast Matters
Moreover, as mentioned in a comment by Steven in response to Matt Cutts video about site speed: Speed matters in getting ranking credit for posted content. If a wise and wily webmaster can steal your content fast enough and post it (with or without credit) the search engines rank the faster website before the slower one every time. In the dog-eat-dog world of marketing nothing is more annoying.

Take a Look Around
Lastly, using Google’s little page speed tool: lets see how the top sites rank for speed.?First, the least competitive search term I could think of: “bird watching in Massachusetts.”

Page Speed Scores:
1. www.birding.com 87
2. massbird.org 68
3. www.7seas 69
4. blog.newenglandbirdhouse 51
5. www.massaudubon.org 68

Then for a very competitive term: “shoes.”

Page Speed Scores:
1. www.dsm.com 90
2. www.shoes.com 74
3. www.payless.com 65
4. www.aldoshoes.com 74
5. www.famousfootwear.com 77
And another little company, www.zappos.com: 91

Then for: “computers.”

Page Speed Scores:
1. www.dell.com 87
2. www.apple.com 74
3. www.hp.com 83
4. www.walmart.com 83
5. wikipedia.org 80

Then for a search outside of the US: “rent a car in Australia.”

Page Speed Scores:
1. www.budget.com.au 53
2. www.thrifty.com.au 57
3. www.vroomvroomvroom.com.au 85
4. www.avis.com.au 66
5. www.apexrentacar.com.au 63

Given the evidence, ignore site speed at your own peril.

Jen Thames is Brand Manager for Ugly Cable, Australia’s leading online HDMI Cable supplier

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