Commentary

How Google's Speeding Things Up Could Affect You

Google speed

Google's need for speed could begin to influence the transition to the next generation of search and page-ranking factors in query results, as the company makes a transition to Caffeine, the next-generation of Google Search. While the move to speed up the Internet mostly touches Google's architecture and organic search results, some search marketers believe the move affects search advertisers, too.

Google has made a concerted effort during the last half of 2009 to speed things up and improve processing. Speed, or the time it takes to process information, has become a consistent theme as the company began work on the next version of its search architecture, Caffeine.

Google began previewing Caffeine to webmasters in August. Last year, Matt Cutts wrote on his blog to expect Caffeine after the holidays, confirming that speed will become a ranking factor on Google.

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Reliable-SEO Founder David Harry tells me Google's need for speed in organic search results affects not only page-load speeds, but Google DNS, updated analytics code, ability to incorporate new signals, social search, real-time search, deeper personalization, Google Wave and more.

Harry points to PCs as an example. "A computer may start to lag when you open multiple programs, so to make it run better and faster, you buy another stick of RAM," he explains. "The computer itself and the processes haven't changed, just the infrastructure. Caffeine will work to process things faster, which will give Google new opportunities."

To Harry, who recalls Google's last major update as "Big Daddy," the move means the Mountain View, Calif., search engine wants more processing power to adapt new signals, such as personalized search, social search, and real-time search.

Page-load speeds also will become an increasingly important factor in 2010 for search advertisers, according to the U.K.-based independent search marketing agency Greenlight.

Google revealed in June 2009 that landing-page download times have an impact on a marketer's Quality Score in Paid Search, according to Greenlght. Greenlight determined in a sample study that 4% of 100 popular Web sites in the United Kingdom had page-load speeds slower than the acceptable threshold set by Google. The search company says this could cost advertisers increased click rates and become a "detriment" to paid search Quality Scores.

The study was conducted across four industries: consumer electronics, clothing retail, travel and finance.

Greenlight tested download speeds at the same time of the day, outside of seasonal peaks in server load and made multiple requests to get an average. The findings reveal load times ranged from the exceptional (Argos.co.uk at 0.29 seconds was the standout) to the painfully high (a top  electronics retailer at over 15 seconds), and everything in between.

Determining an unacceptable average load time, Greenlight created a methodology that mirrored Google's method of determining an acceptable maximum. The threshold Greenlight determined was 4.97 seconds, about 3 seconds above the national average.

Greenlight's results revealed that 4% of the sites analysed had average page load speeds far in excess of the 4.97 seconds determined as the threshold, and therefore run a risk of seeing increased costs per click.

It also found that 3% of the sites had average page load speeds in excess of 8 seconds, which research points to as being the point that users are likely to abandon a site. The findings suggest no industry pattern--all sectors had a broad spread of high-and-low page-load speeds. The size of the company made no difference either.

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