Google freely admits they use site speed as a ranking factor. That right there should be enough of a reason to make you care about the speed of your site. While site speed doesn’t carry as much weight as some of the other 200 odd signals Google takes into account when ranking your site, the fact that the search giant has bothered to let us mortal site owners know tells me it’s worth focusing on.
Check out this video from Google about making the web faster:
Even though the video is a few years old (and some of their predictions have already come true!), it still has some valuable information to think about. One point in particular sticks out to me: like the developers at Google say, making faster websites means a faster web overall, which is great from the user perspective. Be honest with yourself, when you are surfing the web (not for anything in particular, just cruising along) are you willing to wait ten seconds for a page to load before you decide if it was worth the wait? How about 8 seconds? What about 5 seconds? We live in a gotta-go world where almost all of our communication is instant. If you’re not willing to wait around for a site to load, why should you expect visitors to your site to be any different?
Google has run a series of studies on site speed and the long-term effect on the end user. Basically, they realized that the longer a person had to wait for the search results to show up, the less overall searching they did overtime. Google, like every other website, is trying to increase the amount of business they do online. Your website might sell high-end culinary utensils; Google sells information. In order to keep their target audience happy, Google has done everything they can to up their site speed. (Have you noticed that they sneak in how long it took to find X listings at the top of the SERP?) If you want to keep you target audience engaged, you need to think about improving your site speed as well.
In a more recent video about site speed, Matt Cutts says “It’s always good to see if you can move a little bit faster and try to return results to users a little bit faster. It makes your website experience more fluid. It makes your users happier. There are studies that say the return on investment is definitely worth it. But at the same time, I wouldn’t stress overly about it.” To me, Matt Cutts is saying that you should focus on site speed because it directly impacts your end user, not just because it might affect how well your site ranks.
Site speed is only 1 of the 200+ ranking factors Google is currently using to rank your website, so a site that loads in 4 seconds doesn’t necessarily have an advantage over a site that loads in 6. There are a lot of other factors that come into play. However, site speed is one of those factors that website owners can easily improve, and it’s worth doing so when possible.