The speed factor: Google algorithm change favors small business
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.