A few days ago Google announced that site speed is now a ranking factor (for English Google.com results at least). We've been expecting this for ages so it's no surprise, but should we be worried?
Well, even if site speed affected all queries (and it doesn't, yet) and even if it was a really big factor (which it isn't), we'd still only have to worry about our site speed compared to our local competitors. What does that mean? Let's take an example.
Say I want to sell shoes online in the UK. I can think of a few online retailers off the top of my head, but the only ones I need to beat are those hosted in and targeting the UK. To get the figures behind this claim, I used Uptrends.com. It lets you check website speed from various locations around the world. If we look at the top UK results for ‘shoes' as they load from London and Chicago, this is what we get:
With the exception of office.co.uk, these are all UK-based sites.
Now let's look at the top US results for ‘shoes' – these are all hosted in the US. Can they load faster from London than our UK sites?
Interestingly, four of these sites load faster from London than from Chicago, but they're still generally slower than UK-based sites. As a UK retailer I can see that US-based sites on the whole aren't much of a threat when it comes to speed. The faster sites in my marketplace are hosted in the UK, so these are the ones I need to beat.
This test also reveals just how much your host's location can affect your load time. It's an SEO tenet to host in your target country, but if you ever wanted proof here it is. The UK-based sites were several seconds slower to load from Chicago than London – if you're targeting the US it looks like you should host there!