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It was 2010 when Google first announced that the speed of a web page was becoming a ranking factor in their search algorithm. It made sense – Google’s business is essentially providing good quality answers to questions. If the website they send you to is slow, arguably, it doesn’t meet this quality benchmark.

It’s a fact that users prefer sites that are fast, and this is an issue that affects businesses of all sizes and types. Retail giant Walmart discovered that letting page load times drift from one second up to four seconds had a terrible impact on their conversion rates. But every second of improvement they made on page load speed increased conversions by 2%.

The team behind the Firefox web browser also reported that when they improved page load time by 2.2 seconds, downloads from their website increased by 15.4%. In real terms, that meant 10,000,000 more downloads. WebPeformanceToday.com has more stats that show the importance of page speed here.

So, Google seem to be on the right track when they factor page speed into their algorithm. Given a choice between two equally “relevant” pages, the typical user will prefer the fast one over the slow one.

Last month, however, Google upped the ante with a new, experimental, “Slow” label appearing next to some websites. This was reported by Search Engine Land and a number of other sources as people started to notice the new marker appearing on search results.

The introduction, with no fanfare or announcement that anyone could pinpoint, mirrored the introduction of the “mobile friendly” tag that had appeared previously. As you may already know, being “mobile friendly” is now more important for websites since Google announced that, on April 21st 2015, sites that are not mobile friendly will find themselves penalised in Google’s mobile search index.

Is the soft launch of this label a precursor to Google implementing a stricter penalty on websites that it perceives as slow? Or is it some clever test by the search giant to see how users really feel about websites that are slow? The jury is still out.

In the meantime, any webmaster worth his or her salt will have a very close eye on page speed both now and in the future. If your website is running slowly, a web hosting upgrade may be in order.

If you need help with improving the speed of your site, please feel free to email us – sales@catalyst2.com and we would be very happy to help you out. We can do analysis on your pages free of charge and then make recommendations on where the quickest wins will be.

Here at catalyst2, we ensure that our servers are optimised as much as they can be so that any sites we host load as far as possible from a server perspective. If you have any questions, please let us know.