Google Steps up the Pace

Posted: May 3rd, 2010
Filed under: IIS & HTTP, Web Speed and Performance
Tags: , , ,

Google Adds Speed Algorithm, Effects Site Rankings in Search

For a long time now Google has pushed the importance of speed in their products and on the web. Just last month Google has announced that they will be including a new trigger in their search ranking algorithms: site speed.

“Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. 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. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.”

Site Speed vs. Visitor Retention

While the addition of the new site speed calculation to Google’s new ranking algorithm will affect less than 1% of search queries, it is still an important aspect in both site development and design. Recent case studies on how site performance affects sales and visitor retention from Velocity 2009 show that focusing on performance should be a site administrator’s number one priority.

“Phil Dixon, from Shopzilla, had the most takeaway statistics about the impact of performance on the bottom line. A year-long performance redesign resulted in a 5 second speed up (from ~7 seconds to ~2 seconds). This resulted in a 25% increase in page views, a 7-12% increase in revenue, and a 50% reduction in hardware. This last point shows the win-win of performance improvements, increasing revenue while driving down operating costs.”

Speed Matters

Recently Google conducted some experiments to determine how users react when web search takes longer. To enable this experiment Google injected a server-side delay to extend the processing time before and during the time that the results were transferred to the browser.

“Our experiments demonstrate that slowing down the search results page by 100 to 400 milliseconds has a measurable impact on the number of searches per user of -0.2% to -0.6% (averaged over four or six weeks depending on the experiment). That’s 0.2% to 0.6% fewer searches for changes under half a second!”

Google also found that users did fewer and fewer searches the longer they were exposed to the experiment.

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