Google has recently announced that they are going to start incorporating site speed as part of their search ranking. Depending on how this is handled it could be either a good or a bad thing.
As a Google user, I would be happy if there are 10 sites with similar relevance to my search that the slower sites would be listed lower on the the page. Also, the pressure this would put on many sites to improve their speed would be good for me as a user of the Web in general. But, on the other hand, if speed becomes too important in the ranking then sites with high speed could push out slower sites with more relevant information.
As a web site owner, it means one more thing to worry about as part of SEO (Search Engine Optimization.) Something that is only slightly related to content. Performance is controlled as much by the web site host as anything else, so it does make cheaper hosting less attractive and will drive up the costs of running a web site somewhat.
I believe that Google’s engineers are smart enough to take into consideration factors that could unfairly penalize a site such as brief periods of high activity, web analytic scripts and ads. While this does increase the cost (in time and money) for site owners, it really is inevitable. As the web grows, search engines need to ensure that they give users the best results for their search, and that means finding new and different ways to surface sites that users want. Relevance is the best and most important metric, but with so many sites that are relevant there has to be a way to sort them. I suppose the next step is to grade sites on spelling and aesthetics. That’d push half of Myspace out of search results.
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