Google Tests a “Slow” Label for Websites in Search Results

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

The speed of a website is one of the most important factors for determining customer satisfaction online. As networks speeds have increased, so have people’s expectations for how fast websites should run and load pages. Google may use this fact to improve search results by letting searchers know which sites run slowly. This article will discuss what is known about Google test of a “Slow” label for search results pages and what it could mean for marketers.

The idea is simple and self-explanatory. Basically, Google will put a small red label next to sites that run slowly. The test is apparently in the early stages, so nothing is known on how or how often the speed measurements are taken. It’s likely checked often, since in the screenshot, YouTube was listed as slow, and it’s unlikely that Google plans to permanently label a site they own as slow.

Google-TestThe test was first noticed by K Neeraj Kayatsha, a marketing specialist from India, who posted pictures of the test in action to a Google+ post.

“Today I saw such results in SERP in android in incognito mode, see screenshots. slow in RED,” wrote Kayatsha on his Google+ page. “So the speed of webpages is now being taken into account for in Search Engine Result Pages.

Though there hasn’t been an official confirmation, statements from Google seem to indicate that the images were genuine. When pressed for information about the screenshot, Google didn’t deny they were testing a label for slow pages. Rather, a spokesperson told SearchEngineLand “We’re always experimenting.”

The news of this test is something business owners and marketers should pay attention to. When Google experiments, changes in the algorithm may around the corner. In fact, the move to label sites in search results to improve the user experience is similar to something else Google did recently. Google was “experimenting” with adding a “mobile-friendly” label to search results on mobile devices. Those labels officially went live just a few months later.

Adding a “slow” label to search results could have a huge effect on traffic to a website. Many people will probably skip over a site in the search results if they know it’s going to run slowly. As was mentioned in another article on this site, people expect a website to load in under 8 seconds. So if a site is number one in the rankings, but listed as being slow, they could see a decrease in traffic. On the other hand, if the number two ranked site doesn’t have the slow label, they could see their traffic boosted ; in the minds of searchers, the number two site has become the number one option by default.

The prospect of having one’s site labeled as slow may be frustrating to website owners but it’s not all bad. Like Google giving a boost to HTTPS sites and labeling mobile-friendly sites, these policy changes subtly encourage website owners to make changes to their sites that should be done anyway. If a website is running slow, it’s definitely something that needs to be fixed, whether Google labels the site or not.

There are a lot of things that can be done to improve the speed of a website. These range from simple solutions like reducing the size of images in posts to more involved solutions such as moving to a faster host.

For more advice on improving the user experience , read this article with more tips on building a better website.

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