Now that site speed is officially a Google ranking factor site performance and page load time are important for SEO as well as usability. So how well do major news sites perform in these areas?
To get a basic idea I ran Page Speed, the open source Firefox/Firebug add-on that Google recommends, on the home page of 25 news sites.
The sites include a mix of major newspapers, news magazines and TV news sites. I started with the group I used in my news sites domain authority post and added a few more. It is mostly US-focused but five UK sites have also been included.
Keep in mind that Page Speed analyzes page performance against a series of “rules” that are known to speed up load time. Scores are on a scale of 100 with a high score being good. (This can cause confusion as some users equate a high number with longer load time, but in fact the opposite is true).
So which news sites fared best?
|Site||Page Speed Score
The Wall Street Journal leads the group by a considerable margin and The Los Angeles Times has the unfortunate honor of coming in last (though not by much).
UPDATE: After Mike’s comment below I added Yahoo! News which scored well and took second place.
One thing to note is that Page Speed scores fluctuate a little each time you run it. I double-checked several pages; some scores remained the same but others changed by 1 or 2 points.
To take the comparison a step further I also ran Page Speed on the top 10 sites’ lead article. Home pages will rank well for branded searches regardless of site speed so it is at the content level that the scores matter more.
|Article Source||Page Speed Score
|The Wall Street Journal||77|
|The Huffington Post||76|
|10||The Christian Science Monitor||71|
The Wall Street Journal still had the best score but the UK’s Mail Online jumped up to tie it. Interestingly three of the five UK sites made the top 10.
UPDATE: Adding Yahoo! News moved it to the top of the group for articles and knocked Guardian.co.uk out of the top 10.
So how important is site speed?
Both the official announcement and Matt Cutts’ follow-up post emphasize the fact that site speed is just one of 200+ ranking factors and signals like relevance and reputation continue to carry much more weight. In addition site speed is impacting only a small number of queries at this time.
So you don’t need to drop everything and make site performance your #1 priority but it is something to be mindful of. And since it is good for both SEO and usability why wouldn’t you want to get it dialed in? At a minimum you should monitor the Site Performance data in your Webmaster Tools account and make an effort to minimize your average load times.
How can you improve site speed? Going back to the news site Page Speed scores, here are the highlighted issues for the best and worst performing sites:
As you can see there are plenty of ways to make improvements.