I am a firm believer that site speed carries a heavier impact on rankings than most assume. It’s simple; if a site loads too slow, it serves as bad user experience. Google is all about providing the most relevant information with the best user experience, so why wouldn’t they flag your site for not loading fast enough?
It’s not enough to just assume, we wanted to get empirical evidence that site speed affects rankings, or at least that slow sites would have hard time ranking on the first page, see our objectives and findings below.
Determine site speed score and user experience in order to reach a conclusion on how it impacts overall ranking, specifically first page rankings.
So what did we do?
We chose 5 commercial keywords that we believe have fierce competition to appear on the first page we assume that the “best” sites based on Google’s algo will appear on the first page then we tested all the results with the mentioned above tools and summarized the findings, collecting: Desktop speed by Google, Mobile speed and user experience by Google, Pingdom download stats – Requests, Load time, Page Size and Pref. Grade.
Here’s a comparison chart of the top 10 search results for Los Angeles Pest Control for example:
Because speed isn’t the only ranking factor, there are exceptions for sites ranking well although being (relatively) slow, this could be due to strong backlink portfolio, extremely optimized on page and other metrics.
Another thing to take into consideration is the location of the server. Tests might not be as accurate for some websites due to a slower connection from the a testing server to a more distant site.
Let’s look at another one we did for Beverly Hills Pool Cleaners:
Majority of the websites scored above 70. More requests in less time gets a higher score from both Google and Pingdom. This is great insight to see the correlation between both scoring methods with connection to actual rankings.
Looking at the median, min and max of all the sites we tested:
Over 95% websites that we tested have great page speed scores. There are very few that scored (relatively) low, but again, there are other factors to consider as in to why they’re below the general threshold and still ranking well.
In this chart comparing desktop, mobile, user experience and pref scores it looks like if you want to gain some extra points from Google and be 1st page eligible, your site should definitely score over 75.
The number of websites that we tested definitely gives an idea of just how seriously Google takes page speed for 1st page rankings. If your site loads in more than 2.5/3 seconds you definitely need to optimize the site’s performance. overall, based on the tests done above, we can see that:
- Majority of the sites scored over 75 on Google desktop speed.
- Over 60 for mobile speed.
- Nothing lower than 70 for Pingdom’s Speed test.
- Page size is no more than 2mb in most cases of 1st page rankings that we’ve monitored.
Exemptions in this test are:
- High authority and relevancy websites (.EDU)
- Websites that has strong SEO and pushed their way up the SERPS (unnatural backlinks)
- Great natural link portfolio.
As a rule of thumb we always recommend our resellers to improve and enhance their clients’ site’s performance since Google seems to put more and more attention to the user experience and mobile friendliness.