It is a well known fact in the SEO community that Google has an obsession with speed. In fact, it was in 2010 when we learned that the company uses speed as one of its many ranking factors.

Last year, the search giant introduced the site speed report, a new feature in Google Analytics that helps you determine the speed of your pages. Since then, it has been rolling out updates that expand on the feature's core functionality. Following the trend, the latest update to the site speed report was designed so you can measure speed in entirely different way.

Gauging Speed With User Timings

According to Google, the user timings feature in the Google Analytics site speed report is a metric that shows you how fast your pages are loading in accordance to hits, events, or user interactions.

Perfect examples would be measuring how fast it took an image to load, how fast it took your server to respond to a visitor clicking certain buttons, how fast AJAX or other dynamic actions took to complete, and so forth.

In a blog post, the Google Analytics team explained that user timings will have no bearing on the site owner's page view count, which essentially makes it an ideal tool for measuring the wide range of user actions that may occur on your pages. 

The Increasing Importance Of Page Speed

For a business, site speed is much more than jumping on the latest bandwagon or trying to appease Google, although staying on its good side is a must if you want to maintain visibility in the SERPs. Because beyond that, it is about providing an optimal experience for your website visitors.

Numerous studies show that by simply reducing the time it takes a web page to load, you can dramatically improve the overall experience for the user.

Therefore, the user timings metric should be viewed as another way to fine-tune your site for the best possible user experience.

Measuring The Real Implications

A faster website sounds great, but how big a difference does the addition of the user timing metric really make in Google Analytics' site speed report? Right now, it's kind of hard to say. If you ask Matt Cutts, who heads up the company's webspam team, it really is no big deal at all.

It was Cutts who recently revealed that the site speed report feature itself only affects 1 in 100 searches, which hints that it has very little impact on rankings.

While Matt Cutts definitely appears to be downplaying the significance, savvy business owners should not overlook the new user timing features, or the site speed report in general. Even if it has little to no affect on your search positioning, it can help you create the optimal performance today's internet users demand. After all, if your pages are loading slow, people are almost certain to hightail it out of there as fast they can.

Francis Santos

Francis Santos is a best practices activist and advocate for leading web and permission-based email marketing software providing award winning email marketing services.

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4 Responses to “Why should businesses pay attention to the new Google Analytics site speed report?”

  1. Marlon says:

    I made the grave mistake of trying out a new (cheap) webhost recently, to host a client's blogs. The loading speeds are quite bad (understatement), and understandably, the blog has failed to rank well for its keywords – a clear sign that Google looks at page speed when ranking your blog, contrary to what Matt Cutts says. And even if its not an issue in terms of rankings, its a pain-in-the-A for any visitors. A slow blog will ensure that you lose visitors (returning visitors) in the long run. It would also have an impact on other metrics such as the bounce-rate.

  2. Hey Francis, great post! I'd like to give my two cents here: to say that Cutss downplayed site speed is an understatement when you do the math. Why? Google processes billions of searches a month, so saying "only" 1 in 100 searches was affected means at least tens of millions of searches were affected.

    Another insight straight out of the world of conversion optimization: I read some study found that 1 tenth of a second lowers your conversion rate by 1%. In other words: if a page takes 6 seconds to load, your conversion rate will have dropped by 60%. Guess what that means? Every additional second of loading time lowers the number of sales your site generates. If that doesn't motivate you to do something about site speed, then I don't know what does!

  3. Gabi says:

    I totally agree, and I think that website builders and bloggers do care about the speed. I personally, always get upset when a page loads slowly. In the most cases, I leave the page and check an other one. And that isn't good from the business owner's view (I mean the first one:)) Every site should be optimized for a fast loading and a high speed, costumers don't want to wait for a website.

  4. Owen.B says:

    I'm the same as Gabi, nothing inspires me to leave a website like slow load times. Apparently the average user will leave a page if they haven't found what they want within 3 seconds! I don't think it is much of a problem these days though as less and less sites are using image heavy Flash animated designs and internet speeds are fast enough now that it doesn't make too much difference to the user anyway which I would guess is why Google doesn't give it too much weight.