Let’s look at how Page Speed affects you Search engine Rankings
So this begs the question: does page speed actually affect search engine rankings today?
We’re going to examine the link between SEO, page speed and look at how page speed continues to influence rankings and results.
Page Speed Is A Ranking Factor
Google has always calculated page load times and used that metric, whilst there has always been a user view that waiting for pages to load would seriously affect the success of a page and the viewing audience.
Google uses a metric called Core Web Vitals and it is visible for everyone to see using the Google Page Speed Index system. You can easily run a test on your own website and see what google thinks of your site and content.
Bearing in mind that the Google Page Speed Index measures speed, further reinforces the belief that the speed metric has a strong impact on rankings in the serps.
Why would speed matter?
Google wants to serve pages with a great user experience and that means fast pages with great content. This has always been at the heart of page delivery, with instant page load and was the idea behind (AMP) Accelerated Mobile Pages.
This all sounds great, but could be considered a bit elitist and would certainly exclude slower sites, cheaper hosting and home made sites for non-experienced developers.
This really is where the argument of ranking high speed site falls apart. Imagine if a site is super quick but the content is not so relevant or well written – which page would rank better and in that case, what metric would give a better user experience.
Prior evidence of page speed as a ranking factor
Back in April 2010, Google announced that its algorithm would begin to include the speed metric when delivering search results.
Google said in a statement:
“Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed – that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings.”
The initial rollout was to desktop search engine results and it took another decade before Google made the same changes to mobile search engine results.
Another announcement stated:
“Users want to find answers to their questions quickly and data shows that people really care about how quickly their pages load.
The Google Search team announced speed would be a ranking signal for desktop searches in 2010, and as of this month (July 2018), page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches too.”
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Current evidence of page speed NOT acting as a ranking factor
In April 2023, Google amended their documentation, removing the “page experience” system as one of the factors being taken into account when ranking results.
That said, “page experience” was given its own place in the online documentation and Google noted that the algorithms would reward good page experience signals.
It threw the SEO community into confusion as it was believed that page speed and delivery was part of the page experience, so how does this affect speed as a ranking factor?
Google rolled out “helpful content updates” which were aimed at better rewarding pages with experience – expertise – authoritativeness and trustworthiness, placing more focus on quantitative analysis over semantic analysis.
In the documentation on page experience, Google explicitly states that numerous signals contribute to the overall page experience. The weight assigned to load times within this framework can vary, implying that while page speed continues to influence rankings, its impact may not always be significant.
Google maintains its fundamental principle that relevance holds the utmost importance. Rapid load times do not automatically translate to high-quality, valuable content. Content of superior quality, even if marginally slower in loading, may outperform inferior content with faster load times. Nevertheless, this does not diminish the importance of page speed entirely. Page experience plays a crucial role in user interaction with content, and algorithms reward positive page experience factors, including speed.
The documentation affirms that page speed is still a confirmed ranking factor in Google’s search results as of April 2023. Although its influence may vary, it remains a signal considered in evaluating overall page experience.
While the significance of page speed persists for enhancing user experience, it may not directly dictate search rankings if there are underlying content issues. Google underscores that relevance continues to be the primary ranking factor, emphasizing that page experience matters in its ability to impact a user’s engagement with a website, with speed being a contributing factor to that experience.