We all go to great lengths to improve page speed, hoping to benefit from a ranking boost.
Google is said to prioritize speed when it comes to ranking search results, giving fast sites an edge over sites that take longer to load.
So can page load time affect SEO?
If it can, how strong is the signal?
We’ll answer these questions as we investigate claims about page speed as a ranking factor in Google.
Claim: Page speed is a ranking factor
Pages that meet a certain speed limit are said to benefit from a ranking boost in Google search results.
Speed is measured by the time it takes a page to load after a user clicks a link on a search engine results page (SERP) – especially now with Core Web Vitals that rates loading, interactivity and visual stability.
Google offers a tool called PageSpeed Insights To measure loading time, fueling claims that speed is a ranking factor.
These claims also stem from the knowledge that Google aims to serve pages that provide a superior user experience.
This makes it easy to believe that faster pages have an advantage in search.
It’s much more interesting if the page loads immediately after you click on it – that was the whole idea behind AMP.
A SERP full of quick links seems to be a satisfactory solution, but it will likely weed out more relevant pages that take longer to load.
This is where the argument that page speed is a ranking factor begins to crumble.
Google says over and over again that relevance is the number one ranking factor.
If express pages are automatically boosted, they can be served before content that provides a better answer to a user’s query.
This would be a disservice to researchers, as it sacrifices quality at the expense of speed.
In short, there are claims for and against page speed as a ranking factor.
The weight of this supposed signal is hotly debated within the SEO industry.
Let’s look at the evidence in the next section and clear up some misunderstandings.
Evidence for page speed as a ranking factor
Speed has been a factor in Google rankings since 2010.
The April 2010 announcement confirms Google’s search algorithm will begin to consider speed when ranking search results:
“Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed – which is why we decided to factor site speed into our search rankings.”
This update has been applied to desktop search results, and what is considered fast on a desktop may load relatively slowly on a mobile device.
Granted, mobile searchers were still getting frustratingly slow pages—that is, until nearly a decade ago.
In July 2018, Google made page speed a ranking factor for mobile search results.
a Company announcement States:
Users want to find answers to their questions quickly and the data shows that people really care about how fast their pages load. The research team announced that speed will be a ranking signal for desktop searches in 2010, and starting this month (July 2018), page speed will be a ranking factor for operations. Mobile search too.
Google continues to take page speed into account when displaying search results, although the company maintains that the original signal has been replaced with a page experience signal.
John Mueller of Google says: Twitter:
We try to avoid unnecessary duplications in our code, so I suppose [the page experience update] Replaces the previous speed ranking operators. “
For more information about how Google Page Experience Refresh evaluates speed, see our chapter on Core Web Vitals.
Page speed as a ranking factor: our judgment
Page speed is a sure ranking factor for Google search results.
The speed that must be achieved to take advantage of this ranking signal is constantly changing.
Currently, it can be achieved with Google’s minimum achievement of Core Web Vitals.
It bears repeating that speed is not as important as page.
So keep this in mind when deciding where to allocate your SEO resources.
Featured Image: Paolo Bobetta/Search Engine Magazine