Apr 172010

Watch the video below.  It is a speed race of various websites uploading their home page.

Play it again, see which sites fully load in 7 or less seconds, and the example websites that loads in more than 7 seconds (La Costa Upholstery, Facebook, CNN, ESPN) will probably be negatively impacted.

Why Does Upload Speed Matter?

The reason is that a week ago, Google announced a change to how its search rankings are calculated. This change will affect every business with a web presence. At the highest level, the change means that a website’s Google ranking will now be influenced by its speed. Faster websites now feature higher in search results, and slower websites drop down in the search results.

For now, Google is targeting only the slowest sites saying that “only 1% of search queries will be affected.” Looking into the near future, however, speed is guaranteed to have an increasingly important impact on the search ranking calculations. And when presented with the choice, most businesses would not want to risk their livelihoods by assuming they’re not in that 1%.

Either way, website performance has become the newest cost of doing businesses.  Building a cutesy site is no longer enough for the average business. As Google increases the impact of speed on their calculations, businesses will only have more to lose.  You are throwing money away if you don’t do something about your site’s performance.

For far too long businesses have been able to treat their web presence as a checklist item that merely needs to be crossed off, regardless of how sloppy the results are. This news is a reminder that you not only need to have a web presence, but need to have a really, really good one. You need good design, content, interactivity, SEO and fast load times to gain the greatest advantage against your competitors.

Slightly higher Google traffic can bring more new customer  to your business, and especially in today’s bad economy that could make or break a small business.

Here is a real quick way to find out if you’re likely to be affected: Test your site’s speed using WebPageTest, a popular and free online service that uses a browser in a controlled location to surf to your website and measure the load times for first-time and repeat visitors.  I used this site to create the video you viewed.

A quick estimate indicates that the average website load time across the Fortune 500 companies is a little over 7 seconds. If your pages load under 7 seconds then you’re better than average, and there are good odds that beating this average is good enough for Google.

But if your load times are more than 7 seconds, you’re slower than the average, and may want to speed up the website by optimizing your website, or finding a faster web host.

The key thing to remember is that if you’re site is hosted by a slow provider, or your website is sloppy,  bogged down by lots of Flash, video and images, you risk impacting your Google Search Ranking.  Words are King in Search Ranking.

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