Following on from our post the other day (SwiftRank By Optimizing Page Speed) I was looking for more information on this. I found one post from Search Engine Land Site Speed, Google’s Next Ranking Factor which indicates that page load times will be a factor in the algorithm next year.
This makes sense from a user perspective. I have been advocating for a long time keeping the weight of your home page as low as possible, and have always recommended having less than 1MB in total downloads for the home page. This total number includes not only the page source, but also images, CSS, JS, and any other file that might be downloaded by the home page.
The problem is most web masters do not realize the size of their page as they’re on a fast T1, and they’ve got most of their site’s files in their browser cache. One of the most extreme examples I had of this was a client whose site would not download into our site analyzing tool because it was too big and the software refused to download any source code over 30 MB in size.
Another example was a client with a flash sidebar that was over 5MB to download.
To see how bad this is you can use a calculator such as this one to type in your page size and see how long it would take to download:
5MB at 56k would be 9 minutes, at 512k (DSL speed) it would be over 1 minute, and even on a T1 it would take over 30 seconds.
When was the last time you waited a minute or two for a site to download? If kept waiting most visitors would hit the back button and visit your competitor site listed next in the rankings.
So what about Google changing their mind on page download times? Myth busting: delays in page loading from Matt Cutts 2006 stated that download times were not a factor, and perhaps they still aren’t now, but in future, and from a usability point of view speed counts. Do your visitors a favor and optimize your pages now.