Is Your Site Faster than a Fortune 100 Company?

Google and Yahoo on Faster Web Pages

Earlier this month, Google announced that they would start considering the speed of a site as one of the ranking signals that they use to rank pages in search results.

Yahoo published a patent filing last year that also described how they might use page load and page rendering times as ranking signals as well. I wrote a post soon after it was published, Does Page Load Time influence SEO? exploring how Yahoo and other search engines might look at different factors regarding the speed of pages, including the experience of users on web pages.

Google’s Matt Cutts wrote about the recent Google announcement, and provided some more details, telling us that it’s likely that less than 1 percent of queries would be affected by this change.

Who Benefits?

Even though the number of queries affected is on the small side, there are many benefits to increasing the speed of your site, and it’s one of the things that you have control over, as opposed to changes to search engine algorithms and changes that others make on their sites that might influence where they may rank in search results compared to your site.

Matt also noted in his blog post that this change can benefit small sites as much or more than big sites, by increasing their speed and improving the experience that visitors have on their pages.

Given that statement, I started wondering how fast some bigger sites were when it came to page speed. I decided to look at the home pages for companies that where in the Fortune 100 in 2009, figuring that they would find it easiest economically to create fast web sites.

Search Engine Speed Tools

The Google Webmaster Central blog post pointed out a number of tools that a site owner or webmaster could use to see how quick their web sites might be, and two of those tools are from Google and Yahoo. I’ve found both of them helpful, and they are worth trying out.

Both are FireFox Add-ons that work with Firebug. Google’s tool is Page Speed, and the Yahoo tool is YSlow.

There are a number of different settings that you can use with YSlow for different kinds of sites. One setting is aimed at blogs and smaller sites, while the other two, YSlow(V2) and Classic(V1) base the performance speed of pages on a series of speed performance rules described in the YSlow User Guide.

Google’s Page Speed is also based upon what Google calls Web Performance Best Practices

Fortune 100 Rankings by Page Speed and YSlow

The two tables below list the Fortune 100 of 2009 first by Page Speed scores and then by YSlow Scores, to give you an idea of how quickly or slowly your site might compare to theirs.

I used the YSlow(V2) setting for these sites, but if your site is a smaller site or a blog, you may want to use the “Small Site or Blog” settings instead.

Fortune 100 rank by Page Speed

Name Fortune 100 Rank Page Speed Yslow
Deere 87 90 90
CHS 72 89 76
News Corp. 70 88 73
Enterprise GP Holdings 65 88 77
Target 28 86 69
General Electric 5 86 69
Walt Disney 60 85 64
General Dynamics 83 85 75
Dell 33 85 75
American Express 74 85 78
Hewlett-Packard 9 84 80
Amerisource Bergen 26 84 75
Humana 85 83 82
Wells Fargo 42 82 78
United Parcel Service 43 82 81
United Health Group 21 82 71
Motorola 78 82 64
Johnson & Johnson 29 82 69
Conoco Phillips 4 82 66
Wal-Mart Stores 2 81 68
Sysco 62 81 76
Microsoft 35 81 69
HCA 88 81 74
Time Warner 48 80 72
PepsiCo 52 80 65
Lockheed Martin 54 80 74
International Business Machines 14 80 70
Ingram Micro 67 80 74
Coca-Cola 73 80 70
Tesoro 91 79 65
Safeway 50 79 68
Occidental Petroleum 98 79 69
McKesson 15 79 71
DuPont 75 79 71
Cisco Systems 57 79 63
WellPoint 32 78 77
Sears Holdings 49 78 74
Murphy Oil 92 78 71
Medco Health Solutions 45 78 80
Liberty Mutual Insurance Group 86 78 76
Kraft Foods 53 78 71
Emerson Electric 94 78 66
Best Buy 56 78 64
Macy’s 96 77 66
Chevron 3 77 65
Archer Daniels Midland 27 77 68
Supervalu 51 76 71
Rite Aid 100 76 68
Plains All American Pipeline 79 76 68
Northrop Grumman 69 76 72
Hess 55 76 78
Goldman Sachs Group 40 76 74
Citi group 12 76 63
Cardinal Health 18 76 70
AT&T 8 76 66
Abbott Laboratories 80 76 75
Walgreen 36 75 64
Intel 61 75 65
FedEx 59 74 80
Boeing 34 74 67
Bank of America Corp. 11 74 64
Apple 71 74 73
Alcoa 90 74 73
Aetna 77 74 64
Valero Energy 10 73 61
Tyson Foods 89 73 63
Travelers Cos. 99 73 65
TIAA-CREF 82 73 59
Prudential Financial 84 73 65
Morgan Stanley 30 73 66
Johnson Controls 58 73 61
International Paper 97 73 64
Ford Motor 7 73 58
Dow Chemical 38 73 64
Caterpillar 44 73 69
3M 95 73 70
State Farm Insurance Cos. 31 72 65
Procter & Gamble 20 72 58
Costco Wholesale 24 72 64
Berkshire Hathaway 13 72 95
Philip Morris International 93 71 55
MetLife 39 71 61
Sprint Nextel 64 70 64
Marathon Oil 23 70 59
Kroger 22 70 61
Home Depot 25 70 61
General Motors 6 70 64
Allstate 81 70 60
Sunoco 41 69 71
Honeywell International 63 69 63
Exxon Mobil 1 69 64
CVS Caremark 19 69 65
New York Life Insurance 76 68 63
Comcast 68 68 63
Lowe’s 47 67 66
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. 16 67 67
Pfizer 46 66 58
United Technologies 37 65 51
GMAC 66 65 57
Verizon Communications 17 60 57

Fortune 100 ranked by YSlow

Name Fortune 100 Rank Page Speed Yslow
Berkshire Hathaway 13 72 95
Deere 87 90 90
Humana 85 83 82
United Parcel Service 43 82 81
Medco Health Solutions 45 78 80
Hewlett-Packard 9 84 80
FedEx 59 74 80
Wells Fargo 42 82 78
Hess 55 76 78
American Express 74 85 78
WellPoint 32 78 77
Enterprise GP Holdings 65 88 77
Sysco 62 81 76
Liberty Mutual Insurance Group 86 78 76
CHS 72 89 76
General Dynamics 83 85 75
Dell 33 85 75
Amerisource Bergen 26 84 75
Abbott Laboratories 80 76 75
Sears Holdings 49 78 74
Lockheed Martin 54 80 74
Ingram Micro 67 80 74
HCA 88 81 74
Goldman Sachs Group 40 76 74
News Corp. 70 88 73
Apple 71 74 73
Alcoa 90 74 73
Time Warner 48 80 72
Northrop Grumman 69 76 72
United Health Group 21 82 71
Supervalu 51 76 71
Sunoco 41 69 71
Murphy Oil 92 78 71
McKesson 15 79 71
Kraft Foods 53 78 71
DuPont 75 79 71
International Business Machines 14 80 70
Coca-Cola 73 80 70
Cardinal Health 18 76 70
3M 95 73 70
Target 28 86 69
Occidental Petroleum 98 79 69
Microsoft 35 81 69
Johnson & Johnson 29 82 69
General Electric 5 86 69
Caterpillar 44 73 69
Wal-Mart Stores 2 81 68
Safeway 50 79 68
Rite Aid 100 76 68
Plains All American Pipeline 79 76 68
Archer Daniels Midland 27 77 68
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. 16 67 67
Boeing 34 74 67
Morgan Stanley 30 73 66
Macy’s 96 77 66
Lowe’s 47 67 66
Emerson Electric 94 78 66
Conoco Phillips 4 82 66
AT&T 8 76 66
Travelers Cos. 99 73 65
Tesoro 91 79 65
State Farm Insurance Cos. 31 72 65
Prudential Financial 84 73 65
PepsiCo 52 80 65
Intel 61 75 65
CVS Caremark 19 69 65
Chevron 3 77 65
Walt Disney 60 85 64
Walgreen 36 75 64
Sprint Nextel 64 70 64
Motorola 78 82 64
International Paper 97 73 64
General Motors 6 70 64
Exxon Mobil 1 69 64
Dow Chemical 38 73 64
Costco Wholesale 24 72 64
Best Buy 56 78 64
Bank of America Corp. 11 74 64
Aetna 77 74 64
Tyson Foods 89 73 63
New York Life Insurance 76 68 63
Honeywell International 63 69 63
Comcast 68 68 63
Citi group 12 76 63
Cisco Systems 57 79 63
Valero Energy 10 73 61
MetLife 39 71 61
Kroger 22 70 61
Johnson Controls 58 73 61
Home Depot 25 70 61
Allstate 81 70 60
TIAA-CREF 82 73 59
Marathon Oil 23 70 59
Procter & Gamble 20 72 58
Pfizer 46 66 58
Ford Motor 7 73 58
Verizon Communications 17 60 57
GMAC 66 65 57
Philip Morris International 93 71 55
United Technologies 37 65 51

On Navigational Queries and Rankings

The vast majority of these companies ranked number one in Google for their home pages, regardless of how fast or slow those pages might be.

They are well known businesses, and chances are good that their rankings are in good part determined by virtue of queries for the names of these businesses being perceived as navigational queries by the search engines, with their home pages being considered as “perfect” or ideal pages that should rank most highly for queries that are also the names of those companies.

Why increasing Your Page Speed is a Good Idea

Regardless of the difficulty of competing with such large businesses for their own names, it is possible to target queries that aren’t considered “navigational” in nature and outrank those sites. While many of those sites don’t perform well under Page Speed and YSlow, there are other areas in optimizing their pages that they also may be missing. Site speed is just one ranking signal that the search engines may be using, and the search engines have told us repeatedly that they may be looking at hundreds of other signals.

I was discussing this topic with David Dalka, a business leadership consultant and marketing speaker who advises c-level executives and board of directors on how to effectively and strategically utilize search to improve corporate performance, and this was his response on why Fortune 100 companies don’t seem to invest heavily in things like optimzing their web pages to provide better user experiences such as increasing the speeds of their pages:

Most business leaders have not yet had exposure to fully understanding the complex and senior level strategic nature of search marketing which can raise corporate earnings in a positive manner. The only difference between executing search marketing strategy with a CEO, CFO and board of directors in a medium size business and doing this at the Fortune 500 level is the ability, understanding and willingness to transform outdated and entrenched legacy processes which are rapidly losing their effectiveness.

Strategic, highly personalized and customized training and use of a new breed of leadership advisors who fully understand the transformational nature of emerging marketing channels like search can mean the difference between being an industry leader or being a laggard that becomes an acquisition target of private equity firms or goes out of business.

There are opportunities for small and medium sized businesses to take advantage of this slowness to change corporate practices involving search and the Web amongst the Fortune 100, or Fortune 500.

Focusing upon things like providing faster pages, a better user experience on your site, and knowledge about topics such as search marketing may bring you benefits that the bigger companies don’t seem to quite fathom yet.

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83 thoughts on “Is Your Site Faster than a Fortune 100 Company?”

  1. Very interesting my friend. It seems likely that very few web pages will be affected by this, but it makes sense that if you are going to included things like links and domain age, then page speed is another good indicator of importance.

  2. Great post!. I have started paying attention to speed and trying to improve maybe 2 months before Google made an announcement. Had no idea that Google was going to announce at all, my decision was more from customer experience. Now that Google is using it as one of many things to rank it makes me work on it even more.

  3. That’s very good advice, Bill. It’s wise to take advantage of those areas in which the large companies are lagging behind, especially faster pages. Although Matt Cutts states that less than 1 percent of queries would be affected by this factor, it’s an additional benefit of enhancing the overall user experience and thus encouraging return visits, which may be an advantage over larger companies in this respect.

  4. Like Garrett, I also appreciate this post of yours. The time you spent in putting all this together for us, your readers. As always, this is great information. And even if Google didn’t announce it, I still believe that site speed matters. What customer or reader would want to stay on a low loading website when there are tons of websites there with the same topic that can load faster? Speed really matters.

  5. Really great post. I think that page speed is very important for website users, and therefore think it should have more of an effect on google’s ranking system.

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

  6. im agree with google/yahoo .

    I don’t like to visit a website which apears on first place on google queries , pagerank 6 and load time 1 minute . Its a lost of time and the searcher thinks its google fault for displaing that link , which is logical .

  7. I have read a lot lately about site speed and your users on your website. What I am hearing is that a faster site can get you a lower bounce rate, more page views per visitor, and also now Google appears to be looking at it, so I took the time to make some changes to my site. After a few changes I got the site from a 4.9 sec load to a 2.3. Load time measured with Page Speed.

  8. Hi Keith,

    If site speed only affects around 1 percent of the queries at Google, and Google provides answers for billions of queries a month, it is possible that it could still impact a very large number of sites. Regardless of how much it might impact rankings, a slow loading page may cause visitors to leave instead of seeing what you offer on your site. There’s value to making sites faster regardless of rankings.

  9. Hi Nermin,

    There had been some rumors floating around that Google might consider using site speed as a potential ranking factor for a good number of months before they officially announced its adoption. Good for you for taking action before they did – it can have a great impact upon visitors.

  10. Hi Paul,

    I think it is one benefit that smaller businesses often have over larger businesses – that they can make changes more quickly. Changes to their web site, changes to their business model, changes to the message that they want to send with their site. On sites that have tens or hundreds of thousands or even millions of pages, addressing issues like page speed may mean creating a whole new site rather than tweaking an existing one, and might be a year or two in the creation.

  11. Hi Gareth,

    Sometimes that amount of time works against you. The day before I was going to publish this post, Fortune announced their 2010 top 500. I decided to go with what I had rather than update. I think the message is still the same.

  12. Thank you, Andrew.

    I watched a video a couple of months ago about a large internet shopping portal that realized they had a problem with pages taking more than 6 seconds to load. They redesigned their site over a little more than a year, and were surprised to find their search traffic increasing tremendously – even without site speed being a ranking signal. They found that people were clicking on their links in search engine results for the old pages, not seeing a page start loading immediately, and then clicking on a different page from another site in those search results.

  13. Hi SJL Website Design,

    You’re welcome. Of course, I want the best pages to show up higher in search results in terms of relevance and helping my solve whatever problem or task I might have at hand, and site speed may not necessarily be the best indication of that. But I think it should count for something.

  14. Hi Andrew,

    Given really slowly loading pages, I agree completely. I remember ten years ago trying to shave every millisecond of speed off pages and images that I could so that people with dialup connections would see pages resolve very fast. I’m not quite as fastidious about the size of images and pages as I once was, but I think it’s still something that most people should spend more time considering.

  15. Hi Mike,

    That’s a nice reduction in speed on your pages. Some of the recommendations made by Page Speed and YSlow might be a little overkill for some sites, such as using a Content Delivery Network – especially when you don’t use many images and don’t have heavy traffic globally. But many of the recommendations are helpful for most sites. I’ve seen the difference that some drastic reductions in speed can have for sites in terms of things like additional page views. Those changes are worth making.

  16. Great story! Keynote is the market leader in website measurement and monitoring from the end user perspective. Our flagship page download products are Keynote Transaction Perspective:
    http://www.keynote.com/products/web_performance/performance_measurement/transaction-monitoring.html

    And Keynote Application Perspective: http://www.keynote.com/products/web_performance/performance_measurement/web-application-monitoring.html

    Keynote announced SEM (search engine marketing) Landing Page Reports nearly two years ago when Google announced that the speed of an ad downloading to a site would be an important new factor of an ad’s overall Quality Score. See press release here:
    http://www.keynote.com/company/press_room/releases_2008/04.15.08a.html

    We also have Keynot Internet Testing Environment (KITE), a FREE quick and dirty tool for measuring page download speeds from 5 cities around the world. See this: http://kite.keynote.com/

  17. Hi Bill,

    It is great if Google will start considering the site speed as a factor. Like the rest of the people who posted their comments, I think that a site that can load its content immediately is beneficial to the site owner whether it’ll help him improve his rankings or conversions.

    Making the site faster to download will give the visitor the experience that can start a word of mouth and recommendation to other would be visitors.

    Thanks for the post!

  18. Although Google announced that this factor currently effects 1% of its searches (the English language searches on Google.com) it did state that this was the current stage of implementation which suggests to me that it will rollout further – and why not I guess.

    I too believe that this change has been in effect long before the official announement. Jan 09 I ran a project to increase the speeds of our 3 extenal sites and intranet, at that time I created benchmarks around, pageviews, profile signups, traffic costs, unique visits, rank postioning for our keywords ad phrases. We implemented Aptimize on our sites in April and by July I was seeing significant increases in our benchmark factors. Now…whether faster webpage load directly increased our Google.com ranking, I don’t know, I think that, more likely, the fact that our websites were faster made them more popular and interactive and visitors more inclined to bookmark and link back to us, I think that is what made the difference in our rankings. Either way I observed a significant increase in our Google ranking, and those rankings have held.

    Making our websites faster has been the most surprising web project, in terms of ROI, that I have been involved with, it was a quick yet significant win.

  19. Slow pages that take a long time to download are just plain ole annoying. Almost makes you feel like your connection is bad. No good feelings from pages that you have to wait for. Especially with how fast you can find things nowadays. We don’t have time for that.

  20. One important aspect that can slow pages down is when you have too many analytics and marketing tags on the page. Using a universal container tag such as TagMan http://www.tagman.com which can serve tags conditionally, reduces the overall tag load on the page. Please forgive the plug – I felt it was highly relevant to the post and comment thread. Thanks.

  21. I think that out of the 200 elements that are considered, site speed will only be relevant to your rankings if you have an incredibly slow site or your site is slower than a competing site that has similar profile in all other regards. Still – site speed is incredibly important for your users which should be your main concern.

  22. I may not have completely understood but it seems strange that the Yahoo and Google page speed tools have quite different results when they are measuring the same thing.

    I think that there are many sites, especially those that use flash that take a long time to load, but I wouldn’t always be put off a site because of this, it depends on the quality of the site overall.

  23. Most of us already know that from a usability view, slow loading sites isn’t a good thing. After all, who has the time to browse around a website on which pages take forever to load? Not a lot of people in today’s fast-paced world.
    So practically it was and is a good idea to built fast loading sites.

  24. Great post Bill. Site speed has always been an important issue on the development side of things. Now that it has become an SEO issue as well…even more so. But the end result must be a better user experience, and that benefits everyone.

  25. I was at first alarmed, when I found out that page time loading was going to start affecting rankings [I was thinking it was going to have a drastic effect on over all seo], but after reading this post most of my fears have been removed. I have a site that’s entirely flash and isn’t the fastest [nor the slowest though] at loading, and I’m always looking for ways to optimize it.

  26. Hi Dan,

    I’ve been including web site performance improvements as part of my SEO services since the mid-90s, on the premise that slow loading pages were invitations for people who visited a web site to leave and search for another site that provided a better user experience. It really does make a difference.

  27. Hi Vic,

    Yes, Google has publicly stated that they will consider page speed as a ranking signal, and they now provide information in the Google Webmaster Tools about a number of pages that they’ve found on a site, as well as providing tools like the Page Speed add-on. I think it’s great that they are providing inexpensive ways of helping site owners identify potential problems with the speed that their pages load.

  28. Hi James,

    I was surprised at many of the fairly low scores on the Fortune 100 sites that I ran tests upon. None of them were slow enough that I had to really wait very long, and I’m not sure if any of them would see a negative impact in rankings from Google. But this is an area where many small and medium sized businesses may be able to take some simple steps to improve their sites and how visits experience those sites.

  29. Hi Angus,

    It’s a little disappointing when you see that one of things that is slowing your site down somewhat is something like a Google Analytics script or a MyBlogLog Widget. :)

  30. Hi Jan,

    Increasing load and rendering times of web pages has always been something that I’ve tried to target when working with clients. The connection between page speed and rankings has always been hard to gauge, but the benefits have always been worth the effort.

  31. Hi Lisa,

    The bottom line behind any SEO effort is in meeting the business objectives of a site. That usually includes increasing search traffic, and always includes making it more likely that visitors can perform some kind of informational or transactional task on a web site. If people find a site, and then leave quickly because a site is slow, to search for another, then all of the ranking signals that you may have worked to improve become immaterial.

  32. Hi Mike,

    The tools from Yahoo and Google both involve some different aspects of measuring page speed, or as they call them “rules” for determining how quick a site might load and steps that one can take to increase that speed. The rules that Page Speed and YSlow measure are somewhat different, and each search engine has assigned somewhat different weights to each of those rules. That’s the main reason why the scores from each of the rules vary when measuring page speed on a site.

  33. Hi aggelies,

    From a usability perspective, it is a good thing to build as quick a site as you can, within the boundaries of reason. If you have a site that is primarily a picture gallery, it’s always going to load slower than a site that dispenses information primarily with text. So, sometimes page speed is a relative concept – based upon the purpose behind a site. The Yahoo patent filing that I linked to in my post mentioned this, but the information that I’ve seen from Google about Page Speed really doesn’t address the issue. I suspect that they take that idea into account in their rankings, however.

  34. Hi Kyle,

    Unfortunately, page speed may not be your biggest issue when it comes to search engines on a site that is entirely flash. The approach that appears to work best with search engines and flash is to create a site that will work without flash, and that provides non-flash alternative HTML where visitors don’t have flash, or the right version of flash installed on their computers. That hybrid use of HTML and Flash, with non-flash alternative HTML will be helpful in providing some on page content for search engines to index.

  35. Oh you gotta be kidding, now we have to worry about page load speeds too for ranking! Give me a break. This is too much to handle.

  36. Great article – did you actually collect all of that Fortune 100 performance data manually yourself?

    From researching this further, I came across a few other tidbits on this topic worth mentioning…

    First, the performance features Google recently added to Webmaster Tools (found under Labs / Site Performance), particularly the timeline graph which shows your site’s overall performance as perceived by Google, with a fast/slow “waterline” etched across it. What I found most interesting is where Google chose to draw this line distinguishing between a decent(“fast”) vs. a poorly-performing(“slow”) site – at the top 20%!

    (i.e. – if your not in the fastest 20%, Google rates your site as SLOW!)

    If Google believes 80% of the web sites on the Internet have sub-standard performance, it begs the question – Why then utilize this factor (even in a minor capacity) so rarely? (according to Matt Cutts, less than 1/10th of 1% of search results are actually affected)

    Or is this just Google “sticking its toe into the water” to check the temperature, before “jumping into the pool”, and turning this dial up a LOT higher???

    The second tidbit was a Google ranking algo detail that Matt let slip to his blog readers -

    “Google’s webmaster console provides information very close to the information that we’re actually using in our ranking.”

    Thanks Matt! ;)

    This is something you will want to remember, if this ranking factor becomes more important – which I strongly suspect that it will!

  37. Very nice and informative post. According to my opinion page speed is very important for website users and webmasters / seo optimizers should take it as key point in their seo campaign and optimize webpage graphics and flash movies and avoid using multiple scripts and CSS.

  38. Im constantly amazed by the time and effort that people take to put together work like this to share with everyone. This industry surprises me day by day as i try to increase my knowledge of it and I thank you for taking the time to share this information with us.

  39. Interesting data but, i have a question – From above two tools (Page speed & Yslow) which tool i prefer for calculation of my page speed?

  40. Hi Steve,

    Rather than looking at page speed being used as another obstacle, it’s probably better to look at it as an opportunity.

    If it is being used as a ranking signal for web search, and Google has told us that it may be for some queries, then it’s one of the ranking signals that most site owners have a fair amount of control over, from choosing a fast host to streamlining the delivery of content on their pages.

  41. Hi Dave,

    I did collect the data myself.

    It was interesting where Google choose to distinguish between fast and slow pages. One thing about that display in Webmaster Tools that was disturbing was that they were showing the load times of pages that I had disallowed in robots.txt from being crawled as examples of the time it takes for some pages to load. Hopefully they aren’t considering those pages in their calculations of site performance.

    All things considered, I suspect that the largest impact page speed as a ranking factor will have will be on sites that are very slow. I’m not sure that the 20/80 line they’ve exhibited in webmaster tools is an indication of where it might help or harm a site.

  42. Hi Kashif,

    You’re welcome. I think it’s useful for webmasters, developers, and SEOs to be concerned about page speed regardless of its use as a search engine ranking factor, but news from Google that they might consider it for some queries makes it even more important. I’m not sure that it should be the key part of most SEO efforts, but it should be part nonetheless.

  43. Hi Keith,

    Good point. Very slow pages can get visitors to leave in a hurry rather than wait around, and that can be every bit as harmful as not showing up in search results.

  44. Hi Matt,

    You’re welcome. I was curious about how some other sites might be doing when it comes to Page Speed, and the Fortune 100 pages seemed like a good target. Once I started looking at some of them, it seemed like it might be something worth blogging about, not only from the perspective of learning more about how much effort sites have brought to increasing the speeds of their pages, but also to see if those sites have considered the value that addressing issues like this might have.

  45. Hi Genite,

    The tool that you want to use is going to depend upon your site, and the audience that uses it, and it’s important to note that YSlow acutally includes three different versions that look at different factors. The developers of the tools describe the different things that each tool looks at when considering the speed of a site.

    For smaller sites or blogs, the ideal tool to use might be the YSlow version for small sites and blogs.

    As to the other versions, for example, sites that have lots of images, and visitors from around the globe may find a benefit from using something like a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A site with few images and/or a without a widely distributed global audience wouldn’t benefit as much from a CDN. The other tools look to see if you are using a CDN or not. The tools look at other factors as well, and it’s best spending some time reading through the rules that each version applies in giving a score.

  46. “Hi Keith,

    Good point. Very slow pages can get visitors to leave in a hurry rather than wait around, and that can be every bit as harmful as not showing up in search results.”

    So true. I think that more often than not people focus on getting more traffic, instead of being a good steward with the traffic they are already getting to their site. If you have a 90% bounce rate, than adding more traffic may add a few more visitors, but it mainly just adding to the number that leave.

  47. Hi Keith,

    Good points.

    Just to expand upon bounce rate a little though. It can be a misleading metric for a couple of reasons. If you have an informational or educational site that doesn’t aim at getting a visitor to go to a checkout page, the people visiting may leave without visiting other pages, and that’s not necessarily a bad result. If they found the information they were looking for, and your objective was to provide that information, then bounce rate may not be too meaningful. If the objective behind your site is to get visitors to move forward to a checkout page or some other page, then bounce rate becomes much more important.

  48. Hi Ramit,

    You’re welcome. I’ve been experimenting with those add-ons for a while now, and they have been pretty helpful. Would love to hear back from you on whether or not the change in hosting seems to have made a difference.

  49. Bill, thanks for sharing the add on’s. I agree that google does use site speed to calculate rankings. I had my own blog on a slow shared hosting and ever since google made site speed as part of their calculations i’ve taken a hit. Gonna move hosting to cloud and see the diff. Will update once i see my rankings returned.

  50. I prefer PageSpeed on Firebug, a must for optimising. Best thing about it is you it will take care of most of the things for you, and tell you exactly what needs attention. Great for SEO beginners and pros.

  51. Hi SEO Gibraltar,

    Both tools have their own useful features. I do like that they make it easier to pinpoint issues that can be helpful to resolve. Thank you.

  52. Hi Bill,
    great post must have taken a while to write up and to collate the research.

    I have been testing page load speeds and have come to the conclusion it makes a real difference with users and that’s where the benefit comes from not the SERP’s rankings. there may be a small difference with some sites of equal content but I don’t think many will notice.

    Everyone should be thinking of its users and do what ever they can to improve the experience. Page load speed is right up there.

  53. Hi Lee,

    It did take a little while to collect the data, but I was pretty interested in seeing the results.

    It does make a real difference with users. Increasing the speed of pages that are on the slow side can bring some great benefits, especially things like increased page views and return visits.

  54. There is a lot of focus on site loading time these days. I monitor the top 10 sites in my niche to see where they are at for loading times. Furthermore, I have optimized my images as small as I can with Yahoo’s Smush.it tool.
    I have improved my loading time by 1/2 second, however, I may have to find another virtual hosting provider that has faster servers or go back to a dedicated server and colocate it.

    My web designers often forget about loading speeds and this is something that they need to keep in mind when designing web sites.

  55. Hi Spunky,

    I’ve found the Smush it tool can be helpful, and I think it’s great that the search engines are providing tools to make it easier to address problems like the size of images. It’s interesting to see the search engines make such an effort towards making the web faster.

    I usually try to use a photo editor program to optimize the file size of an image before publishing it on the Web in the first place. It would be helpful if your designers paid more attention to things like that during the design process.

  56. @ Bill Slawski

    I few years ago when I had the Madmouse Web Directory psd designed, I was told that the images were optimized as small as they could be with the image becoming degraded. I tried to optimize with Photoshop and a few other programs that I had, but the images didn’t look good to me. Therefore, I left them alone.

    Things have changed a bit and there are better tools for optimizing images. So, I used the Smush It tool and it made a difference. I am glad of that. However, since page loading times are important, I may still have to find a faster server to host on.

    If I have any psd designs in the near future, I will make clear that they aren’t to wild like they did on madmouse.com and keep the header and images much smaller. I will have to be very firm on that, if I address that one again. Graphic designers, get carried away and forget about file size.

    Glad the Smush It tool is useful.

  57. Hi Spunky,

    Good points. Reducing image sizes, and switching hosts is one of a number of steps that you can take to reduce the latency and rendering time of a site, such as using gzip to compress page sizes.

    It is easy to get carried away with image sizes when you’re focusing on the look and feel of a site. But, there are times when I’m willing to have a site that’s a little slower if the presentation of that site is enhanced with the images used on its page.

  58. @ Bill Slawski,

    Switched hosting providers over the weekend. Web pages are loading a little faster, now. I have reduced my image sizes as much as I can without degrading the images. I have gzip installed and it is functional.

    Next step is to monitor the server and compare the server loads to the old and new server.

  59. Hi Spunky,

    Good to hear. Those all sound like good steps toward making your site faster and making it more likely that it can handle more visitors.

  60. @ Bill Slawski,

    I should be set to go. The server that I was on had a 4% load most of the time. The new server has less than 1% load on it. However, I will wait a few days since there was a holiday weekend before I really know the difference.

    Next step will be to extend the amount of characters that I use on my blog posts, before chopping them off with the more tag on the front page. Then, I will be able to show less posts, omitting a few images to load on the main page. That should speed my site up a bit.

    After that, I need to look at my Adsense on the main page. That is the bugger that slows my site loading speed down. I have Adsense on my post pages, therefore, I probably don’t need Adsense on the main page. I get more per click on blog post pages compared to the main page. I believe that the blog posts are more targeted than the main page. What are your thoughts?

  61. Hi Spunky,

    Those all sound like good steps, but if your site is relatively fast at this point, it might be worth focusing upon other aspects of your site as well, or in addition to what you plan on doing.

    Adsense is somewhat slower than it could be, but if you’re at the point now where that’s one of the biggest issues you have on your site in terms of page load speed, I think you’re probably doing pretty well.

  62. Hi James,

    I’m not sure that I’ve seen increases in rankings that could be attributable solely to increased rankings of pages based upon increased page speed along, but I have definitely seen more traffic to pages and more pageviews on sites that I’ve worked upon that were on the slow side, and have been optimized to be much faster. Regardless of any potential ranking increases, more visitors viewing more pages is a good thing in itself.

  63. I agree with Bill here. In the end we all know that usability and content will bring a website to the top of SERPs (and the masses). A site ranking number one for multiple difficult keywords is useless with a high bouncerate.

  64. Hi Kentaro,

    Thanks. Going to play devil’s advocate here for a second though. :)

    Bounce rate is a terrible metric to use to address the value of a page, unless you define “bounce rate” in an interval of time that’s so quick that it appears that a person visited a page, recognized that it had no value to them, and left within seconds.

    But what of a site is designed so brilliantly that people arrive, find what they are looking for in seconds, and move on to their next activity, which could be making a phone call with the number found on the site, performing some kind of activity or transaction suggested by the site they’ve just visited, or returning to the site again every time they have a similar or related issue?

    For example, Google’s aim is getting you to leave their pages as quickly as possible. With the caveat that they want you to return everytime that you have another informational or transactional need. And, if the ads they show can sometimes fill those needs, even better.

  65. I think one of the keys to maintaining speed with any website is making sure you buy quality hosting (it pays to spend a good amount of time reviewing hosting companies and then choosing cloud hosting or a good VPS service). Choosing a platform like WordPress and having as few plugins as possible all speeds up your site. Plugins like WP Super Cache make alot of sense too. Brent M

  66. Hi Brent,

    There are a lot of decisions that can impact the speed of a site that don’t have too much to do with the design or content that you present on your pages. Hosting can definitely be a big one, as is the choice of the technologies and software that you use to present your pages.

  67. Hi Bill,

    Great Article. The website’s loading speed with definitely add more competition among small scale websites. The big players won’t be affected much even though several major websites are quite slow. They will easily outrank small websites in other SEO factors like PR, backlinks etc.

  68. Hi Max,

    Site speed is definitely just one signal amongst many, but it’s a signal that’s within the control of a site owner, and because of that it can more easily be addressed than other signals that might rely upon third parties, such as links. A benefit that smaller sites have is that they can often be more nimble than the big players and address niches that the big players can’t afford to be involved in.

    I looked at a number of other ranking factors on some of these Fortune 100 sites, and I was surprised at many of the things I found that the bigger players were ignoring or not doing well, for whatever reason. Site speed wasn’t the only area where they were lagging behind.

  69. Awesome post…site speed is so important…not only for the visitor’s experience, but for ranking in Google as well. I’ve come to realize that Google ranks higher sites that load faster. On top of that, visitors will buy from you if they can load images and site content fast.

  70. Hi Mark,

    Thank you. The perception of how fast or slow a site is can have some negative results when it comes to visitors using your site, visiting more pages, and even conducting a transaction. That alone should be incentive to make a site faster if it is pretty slow. There still are a lot of people in many places in the World, including many suburban and rural parts of the United States who don’t have access to high speed internet.

    That increasing the speed of your pages may also potentially help you rank higher is search results is a bonus on top of creating a better experience for your visitors.

  71. There’s no excuse for having a slow-loading site. Good web hosting is dirt cheap nowadays, and images can be compressed to relatively small file sizes as long as you choose the correct file type for the right type of image.

    A lot of the top voices in SEO are saying that Google is paying more and more attention to this, so it’s becoming more important than ever.

  72. Hi Sam,

    There are other things that sites can do to speed up their sites as well. Tools like PageSpeed and YSlow have been helpful in getting many to address some of those issues.

  73. I had no idea this was all going on, until recently I thought all this stuff just came up alphabetically. But now at my new job I am learning about backlinks, postings and now speed of a page that affect the listing on the search engines. Now as I am telling folks they dont believe, so I will be sending lots of folks to the site.

  74. This subject has actually become more and more interesting to me as my site traffic increases. I actually have a couple of article directories than can be resource hogs if your theme is graphically intensive. For this reason, I have installed and in some cases, created lightweight themes for just this reason…to get that pageload time down.

    Thanks Bill

    Mark

  75. Hi John,

    Yellow page print ads display businesses alphabetically. :) Led to a lot of companies naming themselves things like Aaardvark Printing company.

    Ranking on search engines is definitely a lot more sophisticated.

  76. Hi Mark,

    I remember spending hours and hours more than 10 years ago tweaking web pages to make them as quick as possible. The website I was focused upon had an international audience, and many people accessing the site through dial-up. Speed mattered a lot then, and still does now.

  77. Google favors Brands and Brands almost always have more backlinks, So for major brands I don’t think website speed is going to be all that big of a factor.

  78. Hi Franklyn,

    Google doesn’t favor brands, but rather entities (specific people, places, and things) that can include brands. But brands don’t necessarily have more backlinks. Website speed is an issue regardless of how many backlinks you might have, or how much of a household name your business or organization might be. If people click on a link in Google’s search results and nothing happens immediately because your site is really slow, people might just click on a different link. If people arrive at your pages, and they are still really slow, people might abandon your site for another more responsive site. So site speed issues go beyond pure SEO as well.

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