Posted by & Posted in: Performance, SEO Tips.

Alexa Average Load Time provided by Amazon Web Services is a popular method of gauging site load time. It helps us to get a better idea of how a site’s page load time compares to other sites across a wider sample of the population than just a single test from a single point of view. However, it isn’t a measure that Google uses directly, so should site load times worry us?

Google ranks websites using various factors, the most important being quality content, authenticity, and content relevancy. But four years ago Google made an announcement that changed the game slightly. In 2010, it announced that website speed would begin to start having an effect on search engine results.

Why is speed a factor?

Google’s main aim is to deliver results that are truly relevant and usable by web users. They want their users to have the best possible search experience online. Websites that perform poorly for users should not be rated highly by Google – and sites that load incredibly slowly are treating their users poorly. It’s for this reason, especially as we enter an era of cross-platform and mobile web access, that speed is playing on Google’s mind more and more.

How big a factor is it?

Google has made it clear that in terms of signals governing its rankings, content quality is number one. All other factors, including site load speeds, are going to have a far smaller affect on rankings. According to tests carried out by Moz.com, no real correlation was found between page load time (ie, document complete or fully rendered) and Google rankings.

However, they did find that sites that possessed a lower time-to-first-byte load time performed better in rankings. That means that site with servers more capable of delivering quick web content ranked more highly. Data gathered more recently by Paradox, or own SEO Tool, concurs with this.

Changes ahead? 

Right now Google’s exact definition of “site speed” remains open to debate. However, this year Matt Cutts did announce that slow-performing mobile sites would soon be penalized in search rankings too. So, while improving Alexa Average Load Time needn’t be your main focus per se, it will pay in the long to ensure that your page load performance across your entire audience, regardless of device, OS, browser, broadband speed, physical location or other heterogeneous 3rd party facts factors, is as fast and user-friendly as possible.