What factors determine search engine ranking?
Well, obviously Google places a great deal of store in the quality of the content on the website, and will look at factors like the text, its URL, the titles and headers amongst other things to determine ranking. Google also looks at the authenticity of the site, and will consider factors like reputation, the age of the domain name and the quality of the inbound links. So is that it?
Are those the only factors Google takes into account?
Well, you won’t be surprise to learn that the answer to that question is no. Google works in mysterious ways. In 2010 Google threw a curved ball into the ring when it announced that it would from that time onwards also take into account website speed when determining search engine rankings: in other words the speed at which readers could view a website’s content from the search results also started to have an impact.
Unfortunately, Google didn’t really clarify what ‘site speed’ meant, and left the definition rather vague. It did, however, muddy the waters further when Matt Cutts announced later that same year that ‘slow-performing mobile sites’ would from that time onwards be penalised in search engine results. The reason for this change of emphasis is that Google raison d’être is providing an intuitive service and the best possible user experience. Google believed that a poorly performing website gave a poor user experience, and that’s sites found guilty of that do not justify promotion in search engines.
So how do we stand now?
Well, websites will need to satisfy all of Google’s requirements, however vague they might be. To do that effectively websites will have to be well-designed and intuitive. What counts as good website design? Well, you won’t be surprised to learn that Google doesn’t prove the answers to that. Research would, however, seem to suggest that page load times, time to first bite (TTFB), page size and total image content are important factors, and these are all affected by the design of the website and its overall performance.
A study by data scientists at Moz, working in conjunction with colleagues at Zoompf, found that TTFB is probably the most reasonable metric by which to judge the overall performance of any website, and that is, as we said previously, all down to good website design. How can you measure TTFB? Well, the research identified 3 important factors that should be taken into account:
- the network latency between a network visitor and the server.
- how heavily loaded the webserver is.
- how quickly the website’s back end can generate the content.
The research’s overall conclusion was that good website design can improve search engine ranking performance. Good website design can improve back-end infrastructure performance and that can give websites a competitive edge in search engines rankings. How can you improve back-end infrastructure? Well, a good website designer can lower network latency by utilising Content Distributions Networks (CDNs. CDNs will allow users to view content regardless of their geographical location faster
So is that the key then- simply a more effective back-end infrastructure performance?
Well, yes and no. What websites should never lose sight of is that Google’s mantra remains that content is king. Without quality content websites will never rank highly on search engines, regardless of fast they deliver information to users. Fast websites that deliver quality content and a satisfying user experience generate more visitors. What’s more these visitors stay for longer, generally go on to buy products and services and are happy to share their experience with others and link to the site. All these factors affect search engine ranking.
If you are experiencing issues with website performance, or would like to improve your search engine rankings, then speak to the website designers at Search and More. We can redesign your website and help to optimise your website’s front-end and back-end performance. For further information call Search and More on 0161 669 5544.