It’s official – speed is a factor in google ranking, but don’t panic

So, after a lot of rumours and behind the scenes testing, Google has come out and made it official – the speed of your website is now one of the (over 200) factors taken into account when ranking your site in the search results.

Cue widespread panic and a lot of shark-like activity on the part of shadier SEO companies – but reading the details, both on google’s official webmaster blog and a reflection by Matt Cutts should put your average site owner’s nerves at ease. Speed is a factor, but it’s a very,very small factor (less than 1% of search results are affected). In fact, this new development has already been rolled out, without any widespread outcry across the net about sites falling down dramatically in the serps (search engine results pages).

So don’t panic, but do take note. Now is as good a time as any to check up how your site is actually doing speed-wise, and to consider making changes to improve the performance. It will certainly be a plus for your visitors, and may have the added bonus now of helping you gain an advantage on your competitors online – because all things being equal (which, given the amount of factors involved in ranking, is never the case – but you get the point), if the only difference between your sites is speed, the faster one will now be ranked higher.

How to go about checking the speed of your site:

There are plenty of free tools out there to benchmark the speed of your site. A good starting point is  Google webmaster tools itself, which now includes a section (under google labs / site performance), which will give you a rough idea of how fast your site is, and make recommendations on how to increase the speed.

If you’re using firefox you can download a page ¬†speed checking add-on tool.

You can get some tips on speeding up performance here (at the yahoo developers network), or here (at Nettuts+)

But above all else, remember, it’s the content on your site that is the #1 factor. Making sure that it’s delivered in a quick and attractive manner makes sense, but if you’re content is crap it doesn’t matter how fast it loads.

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