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Can a Website be Penalised by Google for Slow Site Speed?

Speed is of the essence online in a variety of different ways. First impressions count on websites and social media pages. If you don’t get off to a good start, there is little to no chance of impressing visitors, encouraging engagement or increasing conversions.


Then there is the time it takes for your various online portals to load. Around 40 per cent of people will leave a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load. What’s more, website bounce rates have been known to increase 100 per cent if a page takes four or more seconds to load.


But did you know that website speed can also influence search engine rankings? If this has come as surprising and shocking news, then you should probably find ways to speed up and accelerate your current online offerings.


Google’s ranking algorithm and methodology


Even though on-page elements such as titles, headers, content and images as well as off-page aspects including the number and quality of inbound links has an impact on search engine visibility, site speed has also been one of Google’s ranking considerations since 2010.


Google quite rightly believes that a slow website will result in a bad user experience. Therefore, why should something that delivers poor performance be rewarded with higher search engine rankings?


Google has been quite conscious not to reveal the aspects of page speed that can influence rankings. Even so, there have been several studies and lots of research into the issue to find out what makes a difference.


Speed factors that affect rankings


It actually appears that front-end website performance does not have a big impact on rankings, as there is no correlation between page load time and search engine visibility. In a blog published by Moz, website optimisation firm Zoompf found this was the case with both generic searches and long tail keywords.


If by any chance it was a factor, the abundance of alternative SEO techniques was far more pertinent and drowned out site speed importance.


However, back-end infrastructure and performance did make a difference.Research discovered that there was a connection between lower time-to-first-byte (TTFB) and high search engine rankings.Why? Because it is quick and easy for Google’s crawlers to capture this metric.


How to improve back-end performance


TTFB is primarily concerned with the network latency between a visitor and the server, how busy that particular server is and how quickly the website’s back-end can load content.


One way to lower network latency is by implementing Content Distribution Networks (CDNs), which quickly deliver content to each and every visitor regardless of their location. You can also optimise application codes, database queries and explore faster and more responsive web servers.


This doesn’t mean to say front-end metrics like ‘document loaded’ and ‘fully rendered’ won’t become bigger considerations in the future, but for the time being at least, Google’s emphasis is on the best user experience possible.Fast websites generate more visitors, higher levels of engagement and increased search engine visibility.

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