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01 Jun 2011

Google Feeds Our Need for Speed

Google Analytics Site Speed

As a busy mother and business professional, my time is extremely limited. Each moment throughout the day counts. My guess is that your time is just as important to you! Google sure “gets” this concept and therefore acknowledged our need for speed online by folding this factor into its algorithm for ranking search results. In 2010, Google stated, “Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings.”

What this means to the average website operator is that your page load time speed is an important factor to both search engines and human visitors. Therefore, it should be a heavily-weighted consideration when adding new content to your site.

Although there are already a number of tools that can be used to check your site’s speed, Google recently released an official product that measures load times by including a new report in their Google Analytics tool. What makes this tool different is that instead of measuring the time from which the document loaded to the time when all the documents objects were completely loaded, Google’s new analytics report is said to measure the speed from the time of the actual page request through the document loading and all of the objects finishing.

The new feature, once activated, displays load times for various pages and site assets under a number of different circumstances, such as: geographic location of visitor, media placement and technology used to access the page. This is fantastic news because it means it is not only easier to monitor your site’s speed, but you can also view this data in relation to your other site metrics allowing you to effortlessly recognize any correlation. This helps to determine whether or not the slowing of your site is actually driving your visitors and sales away.

All it takes is adding one simple line of additional code to your current Google analytics java script coding like so:

Code for Site Speed in Google Analytics

Once your site has received a couple thousand page views you’ll begin to see this report in the Content section of your analytics reports. Check out Googles’ help article for further installation information, but in most cases it’s seriously a snap!

Site Speed Graph in Google Analytics

You’ll then be able to start collecting the following:

  • Which pages are slowest
  • How page load time vary across geographies
  • Variances in load time with different browsers

A slow page delivery can detract business from your site. People simply aren’t patient creatures, and if it takes even a couple extra seconds to load, many potential customers will go elsewhere.

Luckily speeding up your site can often be simple fix once you’ve identified the problem pages. Some of the most common causes for a slow page delivery are:

  • Poor server quality
  • Oversized embedded files such as images and videos
  • Too many separate calls to external files

Google,of course, has an economic interest in making the web better as well as faster because the more time spent online means the more of their ads are clicked. And in truth, so do you! Isn’t it lovely when our interests align with Google’s? Here’s to speedy surfing for us all!

7 Comments

  • Nick Jun 01, 2011

    Thanks for the tips, Elise. Your articles are always a pleasure to read.

  • Elise Redlin-Cook Jun 01, 2011

    No problem and I’m glad that you were able to find it useful.

  • Bhargav Jun 02, 2011

    Hi Elise,
    Thanks for the info. It is really great that now google will count the page load time and will effect in rankings. It will be now amazing to compete using one more feature more accurately.
    :)
    Thanks once again..!

    Regards,

    Bhargav

  • Damon Day Jun 03, 2011

    Hello Elise,
    I have a slight that is definitely on the slow side and I am going to have to invest some time to figuring out how to quicken it up. My biggest problem I think is that I have to many fancy things that make calls off my site to load things up, like my facebook box and my oddcast characters.

    I of course know I can cut it all out, but I have a hard time drawing the line between, when is it better to have speed but then also have the potential drawback of not being able to get all the information to a reader that I want.

    Are you saying I can just take that script and paste it into my header file right underneath the current google analytics script? Would I need to make any modifications to it? Like the script tags on the beginning and the end? Sorry, I am big time novice when it comes to coding.

    I quit computer programing after 2 semesters and decided instead to get a finance degree. Coding for me is like watching paint dry :-)

  • Elise Redlin-Cook Jun 03, 2011

    Hi Damon,
    What you’ll actually want to do is copy that one line of script that is highlighted in red in my image, and go to your header file and look at the current GA code there. You’ll want to paste the that line of code just below the line that refers to “pageview” and above the line that says “function” in the same position as in the image I shared. I hope that helps!

  • James Spinosa Jun 04, 2011

    I was always curious which metric Google used when incorporating load time into their ranking algorithms – the time to fetch the document or the total time for all of the advertisements & Digg This/TweetMeMe buttons and such to load.

    Since they are showing the total load time in GA rather than just the fetch time it would appear that I should go through my websites and take out a few social bookmarking icons, especially for sites that I rarely receive traffic from, because I am sure Google will find a way to use this data in their ranking algorithms.

    Thanks for the great post!
    -Jim

  • Ray Jun 07, 2011

    How did I not hear about this trackPageLoadTime code before. You are definitely right about people not being patient creatures when it comes to waiting for a site or page to load. I am fairly patient, but if I don’t see anything happening or something is happening, but taking forever then, I move along. Sometimes I will try to come back that is if I remember the site or page and try again.