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
- 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!