Does website speed hurt your Google rankings?

Google continues to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to improve website speed and the overall user experience. Yesterday, at the Inside Search live event, the search gurus unveiled Instant Pages, a new feature to help users obtain their search results faster than ever before.

Instant Pages improves upon Google Instant, the search feature introduced by Google last year that begins loading search results as you type, increasing search speed by two to five seconds. Instant Pages shaves even more time off the search experience by pre-rendering the top search result while users review query results and decide which link to click. By the time the user clicks on the top listed result, the page is already rendered and loads instantly, speeding up the search process by an additional two to five seconds.

In February 2010, at the Future of Web Apps conference, Fred Wilson, a New York based tech investor, said speed is the first and foremost important principle of successful Web applications.

According to Wilson, “If your application is slow, people won’t use it. I see this more with mainstream users than I do with power users. I think that power users sometimes have a bit of sympathetic eye to the challenges of building really fast web apps, and maybe they’re willing to live with it, but when I look at my wife and kids, they’re my mainstream view of the world. If something is slow, they’re just gone."

Mike Gualtieri, senior analyst at Forrester Research, also did a ranking of his own looking at the seven qualities of desirable software. He ranked user experience as #1 and close behind at #3, the performance and the speed at which an application performs a function that meets business requirements and user expectations.

With this research demonstrating the importance of website speed to the Web user experience and business performance, Google's enhancements come as no big surprise. Instant Pages (and Google Instant) aren't the company's first attempts at speeding up the user experience. This spring, Google released its own Web performance tool, Page Speed Online, a new app that tests and offers suggestions on how to optimize website speed. And if you remember, last April Google announced that they were tweaking their search algorithm to factor website speed into search rankings.

It makes you wonder ... If the country's biggest tech giants are working this hard to improve the Web user experience, shouldn't you be too?


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