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.

Page Speed


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 Page Speed Warning 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.

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32 thoughts on “Slow Website Penalized By Google?

  1. Sikat Pinoy says:

    It feels like as of today, it is starting to become a part of the ranking algo’s. It is really wise to optimize the page loading speed; in search engine spiders and human acceptability and perspectives.


    • kaisan says:

      I agree with you, there is nothing worse than slow loading pages, all sites that load slow should be penalized.
      However I have not used Gzip compression, thanks for advice

  2. Presentations Expert says:

    Will install Page speed extension of firefox. Very scared of loosing visitors

  3. Case Stevens says:

    Hey Andrew,
    I removed WP-Super Cache BEFORE installing W3 Total Cache as per instructions.
    My images can’t be optimized, they already are.
    And I use a plugin that prevents post revisions and another one that optimizes my database.
    There were no problems there.

    Nevertheless, seems you have a couple of nice plugins installed there that I wasn’t aware of.
    Thanks for mentioning them.

  4. YourNetBiz Mentor says:

    I just attended a seminar on this exact theory. Its funny up until the seminar I never heard of it, now I seem to see it all over.

    With Googles pagess algorhisms changing I guess it is better safe than sorry.

    Thanks for those that gamve the extensions files. The better loading our pages the better for our visitors anyway


    • Case Stevens says:

      You’re welcome Megan.
      One tip, not directly related to this topic, but important is to update your About page.
      That’s the best way to get to know each other. 🙂

  5. Custom t-shirts says:

    At least it was not in my knowledge that Google is now also including the Site performance or in other words you can say that Page Load time. First of all thanks for updating me and the other ones here. Its true Google’s team is working on many things like you have pointed out above for their search engine performance even we could not think about those ones. Even if we sit behind and think if we had a search engine what we would do for the best performance of our search engine than we will have many things in our mind alarming to be touched. Like the way Google team is doing. Its all about the experience and their database management system, today we have these things tomorrow we will have some other points to work for. Nothing is static every thing needs the update.

  6. Jamie says:

    In what way can slow website be penalized by Google? The surfer themselves already penalized them. Why do we wait for a slow website to open? It is annoying, so we have to move to the next and we have hundreds to choose from.

  7. That’s actually a very good thing. As a user I hate it when I get to a page that loads very slowly.

    I don’t experience the problem so much with pages fro Google results, but when following links from social media like Twitter. It’s especially annoying when the slow down occurs because the browser is waiting for a myriad of ads and tracking scripts to be loaded.

    I usually click away rather quickly.

    By the way I have also written a blog post about “Speeding up your web page


    • Case Stevens says:

      I think lots of people click away when the page takes too long to load. So, not only Google, but also many visitors will penalize you for that. 🙂

      Great article John, I remember reading it, but at that time I didn’t take action.
      It came on my ‘to do’ list though!

  8. Paul says:

    Hiya!. Thanks for the info. I’ve been digging around looking some info up for school, but there is so much out there. Yahoo lead me here – good for you i suppose! Keep up the good work. I will be coming back over here in a couple of days to see if there is any more info.

  9. Case Stevens says:

    Gzip compression is one of the problems W3 Total Cache plugins solves for you Kathleen.
    You can enable it under Page Cache Settings.
    ‘Piece a cake!’

  10. Case Stevens says:

    Thanks Zak,
    I use a few other plugins but I’m sure this one will do a great job too.
    Still, there’s much more you can optimize.

  11. Rubeina says:

    I read about this sometimes back on google webmaster blog. I think this should not be a ranking factor. I guess many would abuse it to get better rank. Of course google is prepared for this. Let’s hope website speed doesn’t play a very big role in ranking

  12. SEO says:

    WP super cache is a must when it comes to page speed. I can’t honestly say I have noticed page speed becoming part of the algo yet, but wouldn’t be surprised if we see some sort of tweaks in the future.


  13. Case Stevens says:

    Good point Susan. Time spend on page/site will certainly be noticed by Google!

  14. Well, a lot of websites these days have splash pages. Because of that people are basically clicking off the first page and your analytics may show 00:00 or so. I don’t think this can really hurt,but it does make sense since for most site it would be an indicator of a bad/wrong visited website

  15. Rick Gold says:

    What is the best way to stay up to date on what Google penalizes for or the new rules they implement? Is there a way to sign up for updates to be emailed or a forum to join?

    Im new to this and any information on how to stay ahead of the curve would be great.

  16. @Case: from what number from daily page views or visitor would it benefit to install the Cache plugin, or is that something which one might setup from the beginning.

    @Andrew, i also installed the Smush IT, which is great plugin if you have lots of pictures, and don’t optimize them before like Case does.


    • Case Stevens says:

      I don’t feel qualified to answer your exact question Morten. But since caching temporarily stores retrieved data to prevent it from being retrieved again unnecessary, it seems to me that you only need a few visitors to the same page to be profitable.
      But the plugin goes well beyond that. It does a lot more than just caching to optimize page load times. And that’s what makes this one so powerful.

    • Andrew @ says:

      @ Croatia Holidays. Smush IT also optimized some of the images I had already optimized (or thought I had!).


  17. Jonathan says:

    I hope google does not implement this as it will push the smaller websites that cannot afford fast servers to the bottom of the rankings.

  18. tommy says:

    really penalized?
    how about https site?
    godaddy, paypal and others https site their page load very slow but it’s almost impossible to penalized them.

  19. Randy Pierce says:

    This was a great article, informative. I did not catch whether Google intentionally slowed down your site or not though.

    I have heard that they are using a different algorithm to decided who gets ranked better and page load or speed is part of that algorithm in Google Caffiene.


  20. Pehchan says:

    No doubt having a slow website is not. But i am not sure if Google penalize you for that. They give credit to pages that loads faster as it decreases the load on their servers. Yes in future they might start penalizing slow loading websites.
    I am not clear about one point in new site performance feature in Google Webmaster where it compares my website with other websites on internet and gives my performance.

    We have to look for better CMS system where page load time is one of the top priorities.

  21. @Case, i will test out the cache plugin and see if it brings anything, I meanwhile removed the stattpress plugin that turned out to be a real killer.

    @Andrew, is there and easy way to get Smush IT to optimize all the images i already have on the page?

    Brgds, Morten

  22. Andrew @ says:


    After installing the Smush It plugin, go to your Media library form within your dashboard and ‘smush’ each image – that should redcue the size.


  23. @Andrew, ok so there is no short cut, i have to Smush each picture, manually.

    I am not sure, i have the energy to do so (-:


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