SEOs never tire of emphasizing the importance and relevance of faster loading times. Certainly, it is logical per se that the loading time, which is actually a waiting time, is a criterion. The only question is: To what extent does the loading time affect search engine optimization ? Which criteria apply to classify a website as slow or as fast? What is that based on? From what value can an advantage over the competition be assumed?
In the following paragraphs, we will address these questions, taking into account both pages from official sources, i.e. from Google, as well as generally available and authentic data on the Internet.
Question # 1: How is “fast” defined?
The Internet provides a variety of answers to this question, often with explanatory models based on hard numbers and assumptions that websites “have to be so fast that delays are not really noticed by the user”. The aforementioned numbers vary between 1.5 and 3 seconds.
The fact is: The Search Console tends to classify websites with loading times between 1.5 and 3 seconds as average. Everything that goes over 3 seconds appears to be “too high”. The differentiation between “slow” and “fast” should therefore also be practiced on the part of Google.
This leads us to the question of the extent to which the assessment is carried out as part of the Page Speed Insights tool. It can be assumed that it is already sufficient not to fall below a value of around 85 in order not to have to accept a penalty. In addition, statements by John Mueller (Google) indicate that anything between 2 and 3 seconds is referred to as fast. In addition, it is not the number of possible http requests that is decisive, but only the actual loading time.
Interim conclusion: It can be assumed that the majority of the websites are not in this area, but above it. For a positive user experience, of course, the key factor is how long it takes to access the relevant content – this also increasingly applies to mobile devices, which are often the only access channel and explain the “mobile first” strategy of some e-commerce sites. Page speed is also important for search engine crawlers, because statements indicate that bots crawl all websites with a download time of over 2 seconds less often. What makes the difference in the end cannot be said for sure on the basis of this information.
Question no. 2: What loading time is reasonable for the individual?
This is highly subjective and, not least, also depends on the lack of time someone is looking for – those who are relaxed and have time can sometimes wait longer, whereas someone who searches from the subway, where the network may be significantly slower, can wait longer Loading time can be an absolute nuisance. On the one hand, personal or individual requirements (internet connection, etc.) play a role, but on the other hand, habituation also plays a role. If you simply do not know otherwise that practically all pages take x seconds to load, you will not subjectively perceive the website particularly negatively, which is a bit above normal.
The following applies: The more a website grows and the more extensive the range of functions, the more the page speed usually decreases.
Question # 3: What kind of website performance is relevant?
There are various processes that run in the background, while a website just “loads” on the surface. On the one hand there is the response time or first-by-time, the first contact between the browser and the website. If you talk about the loading time, you mean the page load time or the loading time. This means the entire process that runs between the initial request (e.g. click) and the final rendering of the website. There are also other metrics that exclude, for example, the downloading of graphics or the delayed display of dynamic content, so that the mere fact that “text” becomes visible leads to the “completion” of the loading process.
Question No. 4: Page speed and ranking, how is that related on Google?
To get started: Google first stated in 2010 that page speed was explicitly classified as a ranking factor. The loading speed is relevant for the website operator as well as for Google and ultimately the visitor. It is also undisputed that it is not harmful for UX or a possible conversion if the visitor does not have to wait countless seconds for a reaction from the server. But the question remains: How important is the page speed actually with regard to the ranking in Google and Co.?
Those responsible at Google state in various statements that there are almost 200 or more than 200 factors that the search engine uses and relates to each other in order to be able to create a ranking. The factors “content” and “relevance” are among them a decisive characteristic, page speed is only mentioned here as another factor.
Google commented on this topic in 2010
” While site speed is a new signal, it doesn’t carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. Currently, fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal in our implementation and the signal for site speed only applies for visitors searching in English on Google.com at this point. We launched this change a few weeks back after rigorous testing. If you haven’t seen much change to your site rankings, then this site speed change possibly did not impact your site. “
Over the years there have been other pronouncements, such as that of John Mueller from April 8, 2016 (Webmaster Central Hangout), according to which the time required by the Google crawler to add content to the index is not a factor, but only the speed. which it takes to finally load the relevant website from the server.
In the middle of 2018 there was a so-called “speed update”, which has to be considered in the context of mobile searches. According to this, there is only a distinction between “slow” and “fast” pages, similar to the weighting in classic desktop searches.
Question # 5: What role does scoring play in the Google Page Speed Insights Tool?
There may be outliers or anomalies where practically the same page has made it into the top 3 for years, but where the page speed sometimes goes into double-digit seconds – a clear argument that the page speed is certainly not the most important ranking factor. So far, so understandable. However, it can also be due to the fact that in the course of content marketing the first search results were always used as the basis, so that “subsequent” content could not gain the same extent in popularity, according to the motto: “Old is Gold”.
It is clear, however, that the quality of the links, the relevance of the respective domain, also in the context of additional content, and other factors clearly outstrip the page speed here. It can be assumed that page speed, as a weighty factor, can only really make a difference when it comes to sorting within the top 10. That would be logical and stringent, because what appears from page 2 onwards has a significantly reduced status for Google or the searcher.
Considerations on the subject
We at the search heroes rack our brains anew every day to find the best strategy and to bring our customers as far forward as possible. We use empirical values, certain tools and methods that have proven to be “suitable” in the past. We’re not perfect either, and haven’t found the holy grail of search engine optimization, but some things are better understood with common sense.
Therefore, it would be absolutely counterproductive to severely punish a page simply because it does not achieve the arbitrarily set goals regarding page speed. After all, that alone doesn’t say much in terms of the relevance of the content, because in certain areas privately or voluntarily operated information pages dominate, which usually lag behind commercial projects. However, they sometimes offer more well-founded, understandable and compact information and are therefore received more positively by the user than commercial sites could ever do for their own interests alone.
A few notes
To use a comparison from the analog world: A fast car does not automatically have to be better, safer or more expensive; So there is a world of difference in many respects that is not always apparent to the individual. Ultimately, the question here is to what extent a private company (Google) evaluates certain characteristics (page speed, relevance, content, etc.) in order to weight and classify them in its search engine. A product that loses its right to exist at the moment when no relevant, informative content is listed in a prominent place.
So Google has a strong self-interest in presenting the best pages for a search query in addition to all possible theories. Point. Many SEOs tend to look at everything from a technical perspective, as this would mean that there is a kind of “interpretative sovereignty” in order to be able to take a better position over others. In fact, we can only work as successfully as the product, service or thing suggests itself.
So let’s talk more about how we can improve your product or service so that the target group can be better addressed and reached through search engine optimization. We have some thoughts and ideas about this that we would like to share with you. Contact the search heroes today and find out how you can assert yourself against competitors in the course of the digital transformation.