Site Performance & Page Speed Report in Google Webmaster Tools

Following Google’s recent announcement that they will evaluate site/page loading times in 2010 as part of their ranking algorithms (view Google’s blog post), a new feature has appeared in Google Webmaster Tools. Under the labs option of the left-hand menu, a link has appeared to a new page named “site performance”.

Put simply, the tool generates a speed report for your website providing average speed data, a summary of your site speed compared to other sites and recommendations for speed improvements.

Page Speed Suggestions

The tool presents some useful information to webmasters, including a 6 month history of your site’s speed with specific suggestions to improve the speed of individual pages. The latter is rather useful, making suggestions that include:

  • Enable gzip compression
  • Combine external JavaScript
  • Minimse DNS lookups (Interestingly, this suggests the removal of Yahoo Web Analytics tracking)
  • Combine external CSS

Although a little obvious to the professional SEO perhaps, it can be these low-level details that are overlooked – having these pointed out in black and white certainly can’t do any harm.

Page Speed Firefox Add-on

In addition to the site performance report, Google has made available a Firefox add-on (linked to from the footer of the GWT page) named “Page Speed” which records activity of your open tabs providing a range of colourful (if slightly incomprehensible!) data. Notably, the Firebug add-on must be installed and enabled for this Page Speed tool to work:

Speed Algorithm Impact?

The impact of site speed upon organic search rankings is yet to be seen however with the recent activity being broadcast from the Googleplex about this new ranking factor, it is certainly something that SEOs and webmasters should be looking to take seriously. The question is whether IT and Marketing budgets can stretch to accommodate this new factor? Perhaps not, but can businesses afford to be complacent arguing that they have a fully functional (if a little slow) site?

Time will tell before the impact of site speed can be truely evaluated against Google’s SERPs, however the proactive marketer and savvy IT manager may wish to re-evaluate their hosting/site construction in preparation to mitigate any ill effects.. just in case!

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3 Comments

  1. I wonder if Google will take into account the content of a page? Surely a graphic-heavy photo blog or other photo website carrying relevant images can’t be expected to load as quickly as a page containing plain text?

    Hopefully G is clever enough to distinquish, but seems it will be unfair if photo sites get penalized for slow loading.

  2. I think pages that are slower to load like photo blog sites will be “penalized” equally, since they all load slower compared to a non graphical side. Since there is “no absolute” when it comes to ranking well with Google, it’s important for all websites to balance SEO with a site that is pleasing to the viewer.

  3. Google does very little without a cost. At PubCon Matt Cutts talked about this and I would not be surprised that it is already in place.

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