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Google rankings influenced by website speed

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Page upload speed has emerged as key factor in how Google ranks websites.

That was the verdict of a gathering of leading internet marketers and web designers, who also cited the quality of web content as increasingly important to the preeminent search engine's algorithms.

Given that speed is already a factor in determining quality score on Adwords, Google's flagship advertising product, and Google's growing emphasis on it in relation to its Chrome browser and the Caffeine browser, the panel expects faster websites to enjoy higher rankings in future; which also gives the site more of an appeal when entreprenuers are looking at websites for sale.

While these factors have naturally been seen as crucial in improving bounce rate - the proportion of users which remain on a site after the first web page - search engine optimisation (SEO), the science of elevating your website on search-engine results, has often focused elsewhere, chiefly the pursuit of back links and seeding websites and related blogs with keywords. Now industry experts believe that Google's increasingly nuanced algorithms are placing more emphasis on rewarding well designed, intuitive and fast-uploading websites.

Lawrence Jones, managing director of UKFast, which arranged the internet marketing event, says the location of servers is a critical component of impressing the world-leading search engine.

I think it is a given that content is very important but now it is about the delivery of that content

Lawrence Jones, UKFast MD

"I think it is a given that content is very important but now it is about the delivery of that content," he says. "I think Google is putting it higher up the search engine in its priorities and as far as I'm concerned it is about location, location, location - where the server is located and how we can deliver that packet of information faster than anyone else."

Sites that incorporate the latest generation of web tools, such as social networking and videos and podcasts - so-called rich media - are also likely to benefit from Google's constant reappraising of how to index the web universe, according to the assembled marketing experts.

Although the group agreed that certain areas have perhaps been neglected, the overriding belief to emerge from the round-table discussion, which was held in Manchester, was that the most effective SEO strategies are those which adopt a balanced approach.

Terry Heffernan, a fellow panellist and commercial director at High Position, an SEO marketing agency, thinks businesses should pay attention to all aspects of SEO, from semantics and back linking to the quality of content, design and navigation.

"By talking to our technical teams certainly we see that speed is going to be more important and it could be a window of opportunity," he says. "Speed is one of the elements of SEO but it is about fine-tuning the whole machine to deliver the best performance."

The gathering was attended by, among others, Craig Stone from web design company CSI Media, Tom Cheesewright, strategy director of And Digital, the online marketers, and Matt Rycroft, technical director of Oomagoo, the digital design agency.

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