Bill Slawski often has unique insights into search engine ranking behavior based on patent filings. I enjoy reading his blog often. Yesterday he wrote about page load time and a Yahoo! patent filing. It’s a very interesting read.
I’ve known for some time that search engines, particularly Google, have looked at page load time when determining where a page should rank in the index. But it’s not as simple as slow load-rank low, fast load-rank high. There are other factors to consider. For instance, if page load time is the only negative that a website registers and it gets high marks or very high marks in everything else then it could still conceivably rank very high for its search terms, even No. 1.
Nevertheless, the search engines do consider load time. Bill brings up several good points though. Among the points that he mentions that I found interesting are:
- User experience as a ranking factor
- Why the type of site matters for latency and rendering
User experience is another thing. Will users wait around for a certain type of website to load or lose patience? That might matter. Even if a page loads slowly, if a large number of people are willing to wait that extra second or two for the page to load then the search engine may give it a pass on page load time.
Likewise, if the web page is a certain type of website – say a blog – then it might be treated one way in terms of page load while a Web 2.0 membership site may be treated completely different. That’s because it is expected that the membership site based on Web 2.0 technology will have certain features that cause it to loan longer while a blog doesn’t necessarily have to.
I found this a very interesting discussion. While no specifics are mentioned in the Yahoo! patent and Bill doesn’t go into any great detail about them either, it is important to know that how quickly your pages load matter a lot in terms of how you’ll rank for your search terms. Faster is always best.