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Monday, February 8, 2010

Speed vs. Relevance: The Google Ranking Factor Battle

Posted by @ 7:52 pm

At the end of last year, Google’s Matt Cutts hinted that speed could become a factor that Google looks at for ranking search results.

This was big news in the SEM world and got many webmasters worrying that their website didn’t load quickly enough. (We even devoted a whole post to how to fix your site.)

Despite the fact that Google never said that page speed would become any more important of a ranking factor than anything else, many webmasters went into overdrive. This has prompted Cutts to release a video to set the record straight.

The following question was asked by a user:
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?

Cutts’ simple and direct answer was:

No. Relevancy is the most important. 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 be an interesting theory 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. That’s not going to change.

However, Cutts didn’t dismiss the idea of speed. He said that not only is a fast website better for users but it can also “potentially, down the road, being good for search engines.”

Considering there are over 200 factors that Google considers when determining a website ranking, I wonder if page speed would really play that big a role. What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Courtney Mills Courtney is an online marketing and communications specialist at ineedhits - a leading search engine marketing firm with over 16 years experience. Courtney has been living and breathing online marketing for over 5 years. She specializes in web and communication marketing, while providing news and opinion to online marketing communities.

View Courtney Mills's profile

Discussion (5 - comments)

Google is interested in servicing the searcher needs. So relevance (however they determine it) will always be a weighty factor. Speed must feature more strongly, given how little time Internet searchers are prepared to spend on a site (or waiting for a site to load). Google has heaps of stats through Google Analytics and will be noticing whether “time-on-site” is trending up or down. Google’s introduction of universal search was a response to the upward trend in video viewing online. If they emphasize speed too much they will have a conflict of interest as video sites are slow loading. It’s all a balancing act.

By Ron Passfield - February 9, 2010

It seems like Google is going to promote popular sites on fast servers. Hmmm… fine if this will help to perform searching efficiency better. It would be not so good if valuable information on slow server would go down. So I hope the idea is such that the speed of the server is somewhere far, far on the filter list. But if the “relevance is the primary component” – great! might be worth trying!

By Henry - February 10, 2010

It’s a bit ironic really because it appears that one of the key elements that is picked up in the google webmaster performance tool is that the google analytics code causes performance issues! Made me chuckle when I found this out but it applies to anyone using analytics although the performance impact is relatively minor.

By Andy - February 17, 2010

Great clarification on a long standing rumor.

How about Matt Cutts saying there are over 200 factors in the Google algorithm?

Thanks, Aaron

By Aaron Garrity - February 24, 2010

Previously Matt had stated on video that the load speed of a site is irrelevant. I guess the Google algo is ever changing.


By Glen Woodfin - February 24, 2010

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