Page Speed and SEO: What Every Website Owner Should Grasp

4 min read

Does the Loading Time of a Web Page Influence Its SEO? If So, to What Extent Does It Impact Rankings? Explore with Us as We Examine the Assertions Regarding Page Speed.

Web developers frequently invest substantial effort into optimizing page speed to enhance the user experience.

Historically, Google favored faster-loading websites over slower ones, awarding them higher rankings.

This prompts the question: Does page speed still play a role in search rankings today? And if it does, how significant is its impact?

This chapter will delve into the connection between page speed and SEO, evaluating the degree to which speed continues to shape search results.


The Assertion: Page Speed as a Determinant of Ranking


There has been a prevailing belief that web pages loading swiftly enjoyed a ranking advantage in Google’s search results.

In this context, speed refers to the time taken for a page to fully load once a user clicks on a link. This aspect is now assessed using Core Web Vitals metrics.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool gauges page load speed, further reinforcing the claims about the impact of speed on rankings.

These assumptions are rooted in the understanding that Google prioritizes delivering pages that offer an excellent user experience, thus regarding fast-loading pages as advantageous.

The concept of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) also aligns with the idea that instant page loading is more gratifying for users.

An ideal search results page, filled with lightning-fast links, may sound appealing, but it could inadvertently exclude slower yet more pertinent pages.

This is where the argument for page speed as the sole ranking determinant faces limitations.

Google consistently emphasizes that relevance stands as the foremost ranking factor. Suppose fast-loading pages were to receive an automatic advantage. In that case, they might surpass content that is more relevant and better suited to address the user’s query, potentially placing searchers at a disadvantage.

Prioritizing speed at the expense of content quality ultimately does a disservice to users.

Page speed’s impact on rankings has sparked significant debate within the realm of SEO. In this context, let’s delve into the available evidence to dispel any misconceptions surrounding the role of page speed.


Past Indications Supporting Page Speed as a Ranking Factor


For quite some time, Google has regarded website speed as a factor in finding search engine rankings. This recognition was officially declared in April 2010 when Google’s algorithm began factoring in site speed to determine search result rankings. At that time, Google stated:

“Similar to our users, we place significant value on speed – which is why we’ve chosen to incorporate site speed into our search rankings.”

Initially, this alteration applied exclusively to desktop search results. It took nearly another decade before, in July 2018, Google expanded the role of page speed as a ranking factor to encompass mobile search results.

A company announcement during that period explained:

“Users are keen to find answers to their queries swiftly, and data underscores the importance of how rapidly web pages load. The Search team introduced speed as a ranking signal for dessearches in 2010, and starting this July 2018, page speed will also influence rankings in mobile searches.”


Recent Contrary Indicators Regarding Page Speed as a Ranking Factor


In April 2023, Google made notable updates to its documented ranking systems page, notably omitting the “page experience” system from the list of ranking systems. However, “page experience” was given its dedicated page in the documentation, and Google emphasized that its algorithms still directly acknowledge and reward positive page experience signals.

Nevertheless, removing “page experience” from the ranking systems page was an unexpected shift within the SEO community. Page speed is a component of page experience, prompting questions about its status as a ranking factor.

This adjustment followed Google’s introduction of the “helpful content update,” designed to prioritize pages with expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, determined through semantic analysis rather than purely quantitative metrics.

In Google’s page experience documentation, there’s an explicit acknowledgment that numerous signals contribute to the overall page experience. While still recognized as a ranking factor, load times may or may not carry significant weight within this system. Page speed retains its status as a ranking factor, but its impact can vary depending on specific circumstances.

Google’s fundamental principle has consistently emphasized the paramount importance of relevance. Swift load times do not automatically equate to high-quality, beneficial content. Consequently, superior content that loads slightly slower may surpass inferior content that loads more quickly. This doesn’t diminish the importance of page speed, though. Page experience represents a facet of how users engage with content, and the algorithms do indeed reward favorable page experience elements, including speed.

As mobile browsing has become more prevalent and bandwidth has improved, the significance of page speed as a distinguishing factor may have diminished compared to a decade ago when slower internet connections were overall.

The recent alterations primarily pertain to the organization and do not entail substantial changes to the underlying algorithms.


Indeed, Page Speed Continues to Matter as a Ranking Factor


Page speed maintains its status as a recognized ranking factor in Google’s search results, a status upheld as of April 2023. Its impact may only sometimes be dominant, but it represents a signal considered when assessing page experience. While page speed retains its significance for user experience, it may not invariably exert a direct influence on search rankings if other content-related issues are present.

It’s crucial to emphasize that Google prioritizes relevance as the foremost ranking factor. Page experience, including speed, is deemed necessary because it affects a user’s capacity to interact with your website.

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Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]