In early 2010, Google started using page load speeds as one of the factors in how they determine a website’s ranking, making fast, reliable hosting more important than ever.
It used to be that the time it took for your website to load only affected one thing: whether potential customers stayed, or left. If a page takes too long to load, visitors to the site are likely to click away before it finishes, meaning potential lost sales for the website’s owner. Now, however, more is at stake: Beginning in the spring of 2010, Google started using page load times as one of the factors in how they calculate a website’s ranking. So if your site takes too long to load, not only have you lost a potential sale from a disappointed visitor, you may have also lost ground in the search engine results!
When Google looks at site speed, there are two factors they consider. Of course, how long the page takes to load for visitors is one of these factors. In addition, however, Google looks at how rapidly the site responds to their bots, which they use to crawl the web and determine the quality of content, using factors such as keywords, links, and whether the content appears elsewhere on the web.
In the past, website ranking was based on other factors. Google‘s bots identified keywords and their placement in your content, analyzed backlinks and the quality of each, and looked for things such as originality of content. The better the quality of your diversified backlink profile, and the more popular your site seemed to be on the Internet, the higher your website would rank in SERPs (search engine results pages).
In an effort to maximize their companies’ visibility online, many website owners keep blogs, publish marketing articles on their website and elsewhere on the Web, and run link building campaigns to build a stronger online presence. Although these things are still of prime importance, it is important not to overlook your site speed by focusing too much on content.
The best way to ensure that you don’t get left behind in the race to load a page is to invest in reliable and fast web hosting. Avoid free or cheap hosting, as the servers associated with these hosting plans are usually not fast enough to handle a business website with higher traffic and storage demands than the average personal site.
In addition, you will need to choose between shared and dedicated hosting. Shared hosting means you’ll be sharing space on a server with many other websites, which can slow down your site speed and is meant for sites with lower traffic and less content. Dedicated hosting, where you get your very own server, is more expensive but can give you significantly faster page load times. If your site is older, has a lot of content, and is bogged down with a lot of flash applications, then it’s time for a switch.
Remember, optimizing your site for the Web takes a balanced approach. The website owner who focuses only on link generation is neglecting the quality of his content. Likewise, if you focus solely on site speed, your site may not have the quality of content or the popular following needed to generate the search engine rankings your site needs to succeed. However, it is also important not to focus on these things and overlook the importance of site speed. A successful online marketing campaign divides its focus between the quality of your content, keyword selection and placement, link building, and site speed.
Kara Taylor is an avid blogger and freelance writer on a variety of technology and web related topics including website development, business web hosting, and SEO.