Go fast or go home, says Google

April 30, 2010

Last year, folks at Google started hinting at the addition of an interesting new consideration that would factor into the search engine’s rankings: the speed at which a Web page loads. And recently, Google made good on that promise.

Google’s ranking algorithm is the special sauce, the code that takes the words you type into the search box and returns a list of links that, more often than not, point you to pretty much exactly what you’re looking for. The algorithm’s primary goal is to determine relevance, making sure the search engine serves up useful links before sending you on your way to the content you were searching for.

It’s that last part — sending you on your way to your desired content — Google is trying to improve with this change. If a page takes a long time to load, users aren’t going to be happy about it. But it’s not just for the users’ sake. Google has determined, with its megasupergigabytes of data on search habits, that slow pages mean users click less and search less. Less searches means less ads. Less ads means less money. Google wants more money.

Note that page load speed is but one of about 200 factors Google takes into account, and only the worst offenders will be affected. It’s not as if you’re going to have to get out the stopwatch and make sure you’re a tenth of a second quicker than the competition. Just don’t be the slowest, bandwidth-hogging-est guy on the block.

Google even offers a page speed report now, among the many other tools it offers to webmasters.

Unrelated: Speaking of Google, did you hear they now have a full searchable archive of Twitter messages? Twitter’s own search tool only returns results from the past week, so this is good news for people who, you know, care about more than today and yesterday.