The Need For Speed

Posted on 24. Nov, 2011 by in Digital Marketing

Google recently let slip that speed matters. But some tech pundits aren’t convinced. Read on for my thoughts on why there’s a real need … for speed.

Does speed matter?

Just a few days ago, Google admitted that speed matters – just as it launched a custom analytics report measuring page speeds and their impacts. Prompting some tech pundits to raise a busy brow, notably Alex Graves who blogged that “Google page speed optimisation is a waste of time”. This got a few members of our team debating whether or not page speed really does matter; and … as far as we’re concerned …

It does!

The need for speed

Over the past few months, one ranking factor that has stood out for me personally is Google page speed – an open-source and free tool which helps you optimise personal or client web pages by applying best practice guidelines to improve web performance. Essentially, this Google tool helps optimise your website for speed, so when users do visit it, they will be able to see your content faster than ever. Along with this tool, Google launched Site Speed in their Analytics package to help webmaster out with the following:

  • “Content: Which landing pages are slowest?
  • Traffic sources: Which campaigns correspond to faster page loads overall?
  • Visitors: How does page load time vary across geographies?
  • Technology: Does your site load faster or slower for different browsers?”

Being a Techie within the company I, like everyone else in the team, look at all aspects of every website to improve quality signals, higher CTR and to make the entire user experience the most appealing, So my interest was piqued when I noticed Graves blogged:

“How does Google determine page speed? In GWT some pages are listed as very slow (8+ seconds). But I have tested on older computers/browsers and they do not take anywhere near that long to load. Why might Google show such high numbers?” “If a visitor to your site has a weak internet signal, operates on dial up internet or simply has issues within their own parameter, the results that Google obtain reflect the drawn data without the elimination of such factors.”

In my opinion, no matter what browser, signal or parameters users have on their PC, having optimised pages throughout the site for load times will no doubt help – and there would be a better chance of coming first in SERPs and staying there in the long-term.

Webmasters around the globe rely on Google WMC and GA to help them develop and make their site better, especially in this post-apocalyptic world of Panda. But I can’t see why critics like Graves have labelled page speed optimisation a waste of time, to then add a disclaimer saying: “Optimising the speed of your site is still important as you are looking to offer a good user experience for every visitor to your site”

Any tech savvy person reading this blog will know you don’t “put all your eggs in one basket”, meaning you wouldn’t just use one tool to do a job, you would use a variety of them.

The need for more than speed…

When looking at a website it’s important to look at various aspects of a site and not just page speed. But how much does Google still regard this as a ranking factor? How quickly is your site growing? Would you not like to keep some kind of control on load times as internet signals, internet providers etc. all change in more areas than you think around the UK?

Fun fact – Parts of County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland still run on dial-up internet!

At the end of the day it seems to be a percentage game between you and your competitor. If the scenario appears that you and a competitor are roughly around the same percentage, Google 9 times out 10 will pick the highest. Whether this is you or not!

So is Google’s page speed tool a speed trap or the autobahn, what do you think?

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