The speed factor: Google algorithm change favors small business
Ian Lurie Nov 18 2009
I’m here tonight to clear up a little misconception:
Douglas Karr wrote an article a few days back titled “Is Google really trying to make the web better?”
He talked about Matt Cutts’ implication at PubCon that site load speed is becoming a search ranking factor. Karr implies that this favors businesses with deep pockets, I’m assuming because they can spend more on improving load speed.
Mashable picked up the thread, too:
1. Favors big / powerful sites: As Karr notes, big companies are best able to plow resources into technical prowess. This could disrupt Google’s egalitarian basis, and the whole idea of the web as a meritocracy.
They got it backwards
If page load time becomes a ranking factor, that favors small business, not big business.
Have you ever seen a large company try to change their web site? Here’s how it goes:
- IT department is asked to build site based on a content management or ERP system that the accounting department chose.
- IT department builds site, testing it carefully on their internal network, and over their ridiculously fast Internet connection.
- Site launches.
- Site runs like crap, with page load times somewhere around 45-60 seconds (see below if you don’t believe me).
- Marketing department says “What the hell?!” and asks IT department to speed up the site.
- IT department says they’ll have to take time away from 10 other projects to change it, and anyway, the competition’s site loads just as slow, so who cares?
- Marketing department tries to find a way to fix the problem themselves. Finds out there are only 10 people on earth who know how to use the web system they’re on, and they all cost $2500 a day. Oddly enough, they all work for the company that makes the system.
- Accounting department sees that the marketing department is hiring a consultant. Sends a 3-inch-thick stack of forms to the marketing department to handle the new vendor, who the marketing department is paying a total of $2500.
- Marketing manager quits.
- New marketing manager comes in, starts the whole thing over again.
- IT department manager, sick of managing a web site, quits.
- New IT manager comes in swearing to work well with the marketing department.
- Accounting department slashes IT budget 40%. New IT manager has to lay off 4 people. Is now totally overtasked.
- Marketing manager sees how slow the site loads, says “What the hell?!”, and asks the IT department to spee up the site.
- Return to number 6 and loop infinitely.
At a small company, here’s what happens:
- CEO gets site built on WordPress or static HTML.
- Site’s not perfect, Lord knows, but it works.
- CEO realizes they don’t rank for anything, hires an SEO.
- SEO says “your site runs too slowly”.
- CEO yells down the hall to the CTO: “Frank, fix the damned site. It’s too slow!”
- Frank sets up GZIP compression, or compresses a few images, or hires someone to fix it, or Frank gets fired.
- Problem solved.
I just checked out a few home pages with Safari’s Web Inspector and Google Page Speed:
- Target.com: 1.25 megabytes, 15 second average load time
- Adidas.com: 1.72 megabytes, 10 seconds average load time
- NYTimes: 2 megabytes, 8 seconds average load time
Now, let’s look at a few ‘smaller’ players:
- SeeJaneWork.com: .271 megabytes, 4.7 seconds average load time
- Velonews.com: .75 megabytes, 6 seconds average load time
- usaautoglasswa.com (totally random choice): .135 megabytes, 1.9 seconds average load time
Hmmmm. So who exactly is Google favoring? The small sites, seems to me.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More