Google Site Performance – No Need To Panic

google_webmasterA few weeks ago we discussed a new Google Webmaster Tools feature in a post titled Google May Now Consider Page Load Time In Its Ranking Algorithm. This has caused a number of clients to ask us about the results, what they mean, if it’s impacting their search ranking, etc… We thought we’d clear up a few misconceptions…

Where does Google get this data?

Google collects data on site performance only from users that have the Google Toolbar installed in their web browser *AND* have the Page Rank feature enabled. This is important to realize as the Page Rank feature is not enabled by default. This means many people may not be contributing to the data collected by Google.

Google’s “googlebot” is not collecting this data. Only actual people going to your website with the toolbar and page rank enabled will provide data back to Google. This may mean it’s quite a small sample size for data about your site’s performance.

Why does Google list my site as slow? Does it Harm My Ranking?

There can be a number of reasons why your site is seen as slow by Google:

  • Not enough data to analyze
    Your site is small, does not get a lot of traffic, and/or only a limited number of people go to it with the Google Toolbar and page rank enabled.
  • Lots of external calls to javascript, images, videos, etc…
    If your site calls external images and items, you have no control over whether these sites were a bit slow at the time people visiting your site were passing data back to Google.
  • The types of pages visited by people with the Google Toolbar enabled are not representative of your typical pages
    More on this below, but if your sample size is small, and the pages analyzed are your control panel, webmail, db driven admin pages, etc… it will skew the data considerably.

This data collected by Google does *NOT* affect your search engine ranking in any way, shape, or form. This is an experimental feature introduced by Google to help webmasters speed up their sites. Google may in the future decide to use this as a ranking criteria, but currently that is not the case.

I seriously doubt they will use such a small and possibly skewed way of measuring site speed as a ranking method in its current form.

Google is listing pages that are not publicly accessible? Is it indexing content it shouldn’t?

If you have the Google toolbar enabled with pagerank, and your site does not get a lot of visitors that also have the Google toolbar enabled, then your visits to your site will be the major factor in what Google uses to determine site performance. If you routinely check webmail, access your ShopSite backoffice or admin control panel pages on your domain, then Google will use this data in its calculations and example pages to optimize.

However, Google is *NOT* indexing these pages. They are simply recording data based on your visits to these pages, and only you as the webmaster can see this data. It can be a bit alarming to see these protected pages here, but it is not a security issue.

Why are my normal web pages not listed for analysis?

Many clients have noted that the examples shown are often times only webmail, or admin pages. This can be due to not many people visiting your site with the toolbar and page rank enabled. If you are the major contributor to this data, and you do not often browse your regular webpages, then Google will not have that data to analyze.

A simple fix is to frequently browse your website, go to many of your pages, so Google gets enough data on your main webpages to analyze (assuming you have the google toolbar with page rank enabled).

It can be alarming to see Google list your site as slow, or only show password protected admin pages as their examples of slow pages. As long as you realize this is experimental, is only shown to you as the webmaster of the site, and does not actually affect your ranking, then you can interpret the results with the proper context.

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3 Comments

  1. Update: Great link where Google sets the record straight on page speed as ranking factor:

    http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2010/02/02/google-sets-record-straight-on-page-speed-as-ranking-factor

    Essentially, it is not a ranking factor.

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