Slow-Loading Pages are Now More than Irritating

That slow-loading can turn away potential customers and discourage traffic from landing on a particular website is not news. That Google is going to penalize such sites for their sluggish sites is. The search engine giant will now take the speed of loading into account when generating link results. The announcement came last week on Google’s Webmaster blog, and not everyone is pleased with the upcoming changes to Google’s algorithm, which actually went into effect weeks ago.

Phil Payne, web consultant for Isham Research, says, “For experienced Google-watchers, this means Google has thrown web design as we know it into the trashcan. Web design as currently practiced is hereby DEAD. Flash becomes poison – lots of funny little blank pictures to build up a page’s appearance will ensure no one every sees it.” A dramatic reaction to be sure, especially as the speed change will only affect about one percent of search queries, and those will be exclusively on searches conducted in English on the main Google page.

Other webmasters, though, tend to agree with Payne, saying that they wish Google would be more explicit about what exactly the changes will mean for sites. Will it affect sites that offer more images and graphics or utilize more complex services which take longer to load? Google’s Amit Singhal and engineer Matt Cutts say they look at some 200 signals to rank pages, so speed will play only a limited role in search results. If a site hasn’t experienced changes as of now, it is unlikely that they will.

Studies by Google indicated that when sites have slow-loading pages, visitors do not spend as much time on the site as they would otherwise. Another advantage of increasing load speeds, according to Google, is reduced cost. “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.” Relevance, though, remains a more important signal for rankings, making search engine optimization  a must for any site.

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