When Googler Matt Cutts talked to WebProNews about Google’s search algorithm update (Caffeine) late last year, he mentioned that website speed would take on more importance in 2010. Since then the blogosphere has been buzzing with SEO pundits wondering whether website speed will be more important than content relevancy. Earlier this month, in a video response to this question:
“Since we’re hearing a lot of talk about the implications of Page Speed, I wonder if Google still cares as much about relevancy? Or are recentness and page load time more important?”,
Matt assured us that content relevance is still the most important ranking factor. However, he did go on to say,
“If you have two sites that are equally relevant, same backlinks, everything else is the same, you’d probably prefer the one that’s a little bit faster, so page speed can in theory be an interesting idea to try out for a factor in scoring different websites. But, absolutely, relevance is the primary component, and we have over 200 signals in our scoring to try to return the most relevant, the most useful, the most accurate search result that we can find. So, that’s not going to change.”
So what does this mean for you and your SEO strategy? Your primary focus should still be the relevance of your content (and quality of your backlinks), but its clear that going forward Google is taking a bigger interest in the ‘user experience’. One of the easier aspects of user experience for Google to evaluate is speed – so its not surprising that this would be incorporated as one of the over 200 ranking factors that Google uses.
If you are happy with the aesthetics, navigation and content of your site why not take the next step and evaluate your page load times. If speed is an issue on your site and you determine the bottleneck to be server-side then consider upgrading your shared hosting plan to a VPS or even a cloud platform (Even 1and1.com’s has just come out with a cloud platform). If on the other hand the bottleneck lies with the design of your website (size of the pages, large graphics, multiple lookups etc.) get in contact with an SEO or Web design firm to see if a low-cost ‘clean-up’ can be done.
Check out Matt’s response here.