Maybe? A little? Probably?

"We do say we have a small factor in there for pages that are really slow to load where we take that into account. But I don't know how much it's still a problem in ranking," according to Google's John Mueller.

I'm not saying Google's crooked, but if you're going to ask a question about how search works, you can bet your last dollar you're not going to get a straight answer.

Perhaps we'll get further, faster, by going to search research experts, such as Searchmetrics. Its most recent ranking factors report found that, on average...

  • The 10 highest-ranking desktop pages load in 1.16 seconds
  • The top 30 highest-ranking desktop pages load in 1.20 seconds
  • Top-ranking mobile pages load in 1.17 seconds

Search metrics concluded that pages with higher ranking have quicker loading times.

Of course, the search authorities at Moz also published information on the topic (contributed by Zoompf). That data goes back a few years, but it concluded that in a literal sense page load time is not a factor, but "time to first byte" (TTFB) is (i.e., the time it takes your browser to receive the first byte of a response from a Web server).

"Of all the data we captured, the TTFB metric had the strongest correlation effect, implying a high likelihood of some level of influence on search ranking." Said Billy Hoffman of Zoompf.

Hoffman concluded the backend performance of a website does directly impact search engine ranking. He says website owners should explore ways to improve their TTFB.

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Barry Feldman is the author of SEO Simplified for Short Attention Spans. Barry operates Feldman Creative and provides content marketing consulting, copywriting, and creative direction services. He contributes to top marketing sites and was named one of 25 Social Media Marketing Experts You Need to Know by LinkedIn. To get a piece of his mind, visit his blog, The Point.

Twitter: @FeldmanCreative

LinkedIn: Barry Feldman