Google is rolling out a new update that involves injecting some caffeine into its system. The “Caffeine Update” is rumored to contain a few interesting items.
Speed is now a factor in your rankings. Google will measure how long it takes for your website to load and compare it against the average loading time of other websites. If your site loads faster than the average, you get a tiny boost in your rankings, if it loads slower, then you get a tiny penalty. So this if course raises the immediate question – how do I know if my site is loading at the right speed?
Fortunately, Google Webmaster Tools can answer that question. If you login to Google Webmaster tools, under the “Labs” section they’ve added a new “Site Performance” tool that tells you how fast your website loads compared to everybody else:
As you can see – the site in the above image loads faster than 83% of other websites. I think that’s safe to say this particular website will get a nice boost once Caffeine hits the live results pages. The other nice feature of this new tool is that it identifies ways to speed up your page, a really common suggestion it made to my own websites was to enable GZIP compression, which I am in the process of doing right now.
Another factor that is being speculated about is whether social bookmarking will be used in the ranking of your website. It’s possible that Google will rank your website higher for ranking on sites like Digg.com. Now this does raise the question of social bookmark spamming, and in fact there are services out there that will guarantee your story to appear on the front page of Digg.com for a price (expect these types of services to gain massive popularity when this update goes live).
While we are on the topic of ways to enhance your website, here’s a few optimization tips you can use to give you a small edge in organic rankings with Google:
- Check for any crawl errors in Google Webmaster Tools. If Googlebot is having issues with your site, it will tell you so you can fix them and stop being penalized.
- Check for any HTML suggestions from Google Webmaster tools. This is another great feature that gives you some basic tips for optimizing your website in various ways. It will alert you if there are any meta tag problems, duplicate content issues, and such. It can be a real life saver if checked frequently.
- Another great tool is Web Page Analyzer (by WebsiteOptimization.com). It will crawl a single page on your website and run various tests to measure how fast it responds and how long it will take an average user on various connection speeds to load your page. It also identifies other great features such as really large images or external files that are slowing your site down, and makes recommendations on what to fix so you can enhance your site to it’s fullest.
If you would like more information on the Google Caffeine update, here’s a few useful places to check:
Initial Announcement of Caffeine by Google
Google Caffeine Hits After the Holidays
Interview with Matt Cutts re: Caffeine Update