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4/9/2010
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Google Search Weighs Site Speed

Web site publishers with slow-loading pages face the prospect of lower search rankings.

Google loves speed. It talks about it constantly in the context of Web page loading and JavaScript execution. And not without reason: Speed matters. It has a major impact on the way Web sites and Web applications are perceived by visitors.

On Friday, Google invited Web site publishers to share its obsession: The company announced that it has begun considering site speed as one of many signals it uses to determine the relevance of a Web page in search results.

Sites that fail to optimize for fast loading now face a greater likelihood of ranking lower on Google search results pages.

However, Google says that the speed signal does not carry as much weight as a page's relevance and notes that less than 1% of search queries are affected by the change.

"Speeding up Web sites is important -- not just to site owners, but to all Internet users," explained Google Fellow Amit Singhal and principal engineer Matt Cutts in a blog post. "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. 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."

There are a number of free tools available to Webmasters who want to evaluate the speed at which their Web sites load.

These include PageSpeed, an open source plug-in that works in conjunction with Firefox and Firebug, YSlow, a page load time optimizer from Yahoo that also hooks into Firebug, WebPagetest, a site that performs speed test, and the Site Performance service that's part of Google's Webmaster Tools.

Currently, the site speed signal only applies to search in English on Google.com.

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