How much does a webpage’s loading time influence its SEO? Is it a robust indicator? Let’s delve into the discussion surrounding page speed, core web vitals and its role in Google’s ranking algorithm.
The digital world has been buzzing with the pursuit of improved page speed, triggered by the anticipation of achieving a higher ranking in Google’s search results. As 2023 rolls on, we’re re-examining this crucial factor.
Google is often cited for placing a premium on speedy websites, allegedly giving them the upper hand over slower-loading counterparts in search engine results pages (SERPs). So, does a page’s loading time really affect its SEO? If it does, how significant is its impact?
As we unravel the discourse surrounding page speed as a factor in Google’s ranking algorithm, we aim to answer these pressing questions.
Page Speed and Core Web Vitals: An Alleged Influential Factor
It’s a common belief that pages meeting a particular speed benchmark enjoy an elevated status in Google’s SERPs. This speed is quantified based on the time it takes for a page to load after a user clicks the link on a SERP. With Google’s Core Web Vitals now scrutinizing loading time, interactivity, and visual stability, the importance of page speed becomes even more evident in 2023.
Fueling these assertions is Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, designed to measure loading times, further emphasizing the alleged significance of speed as a ranking factor.
These propositions also stem from the understanding that Google prioritizes pages that provide an exceptional user experience. Consequently, it’s easy to believe that faster pages would hold an advantage in search rankings. After all, who wouldn’t prefer an instantaneous page load after clicking a link? The development of the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project was guided by this very idea.
Yet, if the emphasis is solely on speed, slower but more relevant pages might be left behind, thereby diluting the quality of the SERPs. This is where the argument for page speed as a ranking factor begins to unravel.
Google has repeatedly maintained that relevance is the top determinant of ranking. Prioritizing speed could inadvertently promote less pertinent content over a more suitable answer to a user’s query, compromising the quality for the sake of speed.
Consequently, opinions remain divided over the role of page speed as a ranking determinant, resulting in lively debates within the SEO community about the gravity of this factor.
Now, let’s evaluate the existing evidence to dispel a few misconceptions.
The Case For Page Speed As A Ranking Factor
Google began incorporating speed as a ranking factor way back in 2010, and in the 13 years since, this aspect has become even more pertinent.
As confirmed by a statement from Google in April 2010, speed became a critical determinant in their search algorithm:
“Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed – that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings.”
This change initially affected desktop search results. However, what’s considered fast on a desktop may appear slow on a mobile device. The difference in experience led to mobile users encountering frustratingly slow pages until Google announced in July 2018 that page speed would also influence mobile search rankings.
Fast forward to 2023, Google continues to consider page speed, but it’s now under the umbrella of the page experience signal. This evolution was confirmed by Google’s John Mueller on Twitter:
“We try to avoid unnecessary duplication in our code, so I would assume [the page experience update] replaces the previous speed ranking factors.”
To better comprehend how the page experience update evaluates speed, we refer you to our chapter on Core Web Vitals.
Page Speed As A Ranking Factor: Our Final Take
It’s clear that page speed is an established factor in Google’s search ranking algorithm. However, the speed benchmark that guarantees a beneficial impact on ranking is continually evolving. As of 2023, it can be reached by meeting Google’s minimum thresholds for Core Web Vitals.
Despite the significant role of speed, it’s essential to remember that it doesn’t hold as much weight as the relevance of a page in determining rankings. Therefore, it’s crucial to prioritize accordingly when allocating SEO resources.
Wayne is the lead writer for Rankability and ensures our content is on point and ready to help you navigate the world of search engine optimisation, he’s been in the SEO space for 20 years.