So said Tom Cruise with a straight face in the mildly homoerotic Top Gun. Cheesy as that particular piece of dialogue is, it neatly encapsulates our desire for things that are fast. Take Internet browsing, for example. Thankfully, the days of dial-up modems are a distant memory for the majority of Internet users. Back in the bad old days, the idea of today’s broadband speeds would seem like a dream come true to many surfers. Fast forward to today, and if a page doesn’t load in a few seconds, many of us tend to get bored and move on.
It’s long been thought by search engine optimisation specialists that the speed at which a website loaded up had a bearing on its search engine rankings. As with many aspects of SEO, this was educated guesswork, but Google has actually come out and confirmed this.
Earlier this year, Google gurus Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal confirmed in a blog that the speed at which a website operated was a factor in the latest iteration of their search algorithm. It’s not a major one though – after testing, Google found that the speed element only effected change in the rankings of less than one per cent of search queries. However, anything that Google lets slip is treated like gold dust by SEO professionals, and contributes to the formulation of any SEO strategy.
How else could speed affect your website? Well, if a visitor to your site finds that it loads too slowly, they are likely to head straight back to their search engine results page. Granted, the time element doesn’t have too great an impact on your SERPs, but other things like user time on site, bounce rates and click through rates come into play.
Mickey Goldmill, Rocky Balboa‘s trainer and mentor, had it right when formulating a strategy for his second bout against The Count of Monte Fisto, Apollo Creed. After appraising the Dancing Destroyer’s fancy footwork and lightning fists, he says:
“Speed. Speed is what you need. Greasy, fast speed. You’re a greasy Italian tank – now go run him over.”