Slow Website Penalized By Google?
There are indications that a slow website may be penalized by Google.
Like last year when they introduced Page Load Time as a ranking element in Google AdWords ads.
And the more recent launch of a DNS resolving service called Google Public DNS that uses Google’s infrastructure to improve page loading time.
Watch this WebProNews interview: Matt Cutts Talks Caffeine and Site Speed
There are many more discussions going on about this topic, and it is believed that having a slow website may influence your rankings, now or in future. Some seo experts think a slow website may not be penalized (yet), but you also won’t earn extra points.
Do a search on Google about the topic.
I started the week with studying my Google Analytics info. Not blogging for a couple of months due to a heart attack decreased my visitor numbers drastically and I have to do something about that.
I also took a look at my Webmaster tools. There I discovered my incoming links have decreased also.
But what really was hitting me hard was my site performance.
It appeared that over time my site loaded slower and slower. At first I thought it had something do to with hosting capabilities, but I wasn’t sure. I had to find out, because, on top of the earlier mentioned problems, I also had a slow website!
So I installed Page Speed, a Firefox browser add-on to evaluate the performance of website pages and get suggestions on how to improve them. I had installed Yslow before, but hadn’t done anything with it.
Using Page Speed, I discovered several causes of slowing down my site, like insufficient caching and using a lot of redundant info that wasn’t really necessary.
So I went to my fellow countryman Yoast for more advice and took the time to watch his outstanding presentation on SEO Improvements on WordPress at WordCamp NL.
Strangely enough, despite the topic, he isn’t talking about SEO at all, yet, in the end, it was all about SEO. In hindsight it wasn’t that surprising, because Yoast is more a marketeer than a geek (well, maybe he’s a geek by nature, but he certainly behaves as a marketeer).
Anyway, I was a satisfied user of WP Super Cash for some time, but one of the things I took away from Yoast’s presentation was a new plugin called W3 Total Cache. I researched it as far as I could understand (sometimes it really gets technical) and installed the plugin immediately.
Because W3 Total Cache goes far beyond caching.
It also tries to restore what people should have done in the first place when designing themes. Like compressing files and keep code to a bare minimum.
I must say, pages load much faster now.
Then I went back to Page Speed and let it run. Based on the performance analysis, I managed to add a couple of valuable lines to my .htaccess file to enable caching for images, css and javafiles and to enable compression of files.
Page Speed uses these small red images to represent the largest potential performance wins for relatively little development effort and these issues should be addressed first.
The only thing I haven’t found out yet is how to enable proxy caching for external images. I found a few resources, but I wasn’t able to clearly understand what they were talking about. And I certainly don’t want to make mistakes playing with .htaccess files when I don’t oversee the implications.
So, if anyone has some advice about proxy caching, I’m all ears.
Meanwhile I suggest you check out the links in this post to at least familiarize yourself with the topic.
IF Google will penalize a slow website in future, you at least know what to do about it.
Here’s another resource that you can use to prevent your pages from loading slow: WebPageTest
Don’t let this technical topic scare you. Listen, I’m NOT that technical at all. I only add what I can understand and doing so with the above mentioned I’ve reached my limits. All I’m saying is that when I can do this, almost anyone else can.
I’m still busy investigating and in the near future I may delete a few gimmicks from my blog as a result of that.
In the mean time let me hear what you think about a slow website and long loading times.
Do you think it’s a good idea for Google to use speed as a ranking factor?
Post your reaction below.
EDIT April 10, 2010
It’s now official: speed IS a ranking factor!
Prevent a slow website from getting penalized by Google. Take action now.