Google has just announced that the speed / performance of a website will not be factored into the search ranking position. While the relevancy score will still be the main ranking factor, attention should definitely be given to ensuring that your websites are performing well.
You can verify how your site is performing via your Webmaster tools, under Labs, Site performance – with the key threshold being 1.5 seconds as the determining factor in establishing if your site is a fast or slow performing site.
Google has made a tool available for establishing site performance and providing recommendations as to how to improve this. This tool hooks natively into Firefox (3.5 and above), and you can download this from their code.google.com site at; http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed/
Here’s Google’s official video introducing this;
How can I improve my Website Performance?
While good coding practices will definitely help improve page load times, some additional steps webmasters can take to speed this up is to remove any references to non-local domain hosted code. As a common example of this, those people using the default Google analytics code which refers to the ga.js file on the google-analytics.com domain may wish to create a local copy of this and reference it there instead.
Another quick-win is to enable gzip page compression on your site. The simplest way to do this is to add the following into your .htaccess file under your website’s root directory;
php_value output_handler ob_gzhandler
Alternatively, add the following code to the header and footer of your site to do the same via PHP code;
// In the head: ob_start(“ob_gzhandler”); // At the bottom: ob_end_flush();
You can then check whether this is working successfully or not by entering the URL into the following site;
It may also be worth reviewing WHERE you are hosting your website from. While hosting abroad (in the US for instance) will save you a lot of money in the short term, the page load response times will typically then also include up to a 2.5ms lag. This in turn will impact significantly to your site site performance and now also consequently on your page rank which will ultimately mean less traffic and less sales through your site.
Performance aspects aside, it is also important to note that your site will also not rank for geographic specific “regional searches” (ie; pages within Australia) if your site is not hosted on a server recognised as having an IP address local to that region. To check where your website is being hosted, you can use free online services such as;
… simply enter in the domain name or IP, select Network Lookup, and hit GO!
Good luck! 🙂