Ash Nallawalla's blog

Do IYP speed tests mean anything?

Ash Nallawalla

6 November 2010

Local Search, SEO

Having compiled the 2010 USA IYP Rankings a few days ago, I knew that their page load times were quite different. There are a few page speed test tools around but it was important to use one based in the US, so I used the one at Webpagetest.org.

As SEOs we have to consider the page load time, because Google told us so. The page load time is now a Google ranking factor, but how much bearing does it have on search result ranking? The AdWords Quality Score also considers the page load time, so there is more pressure to speed up the site.

Results

The detailed results are linked from the list of IYP names below, but the tool has an impressive way to show the load times in a video, which can only show nine sites at a time, so the videos have been split into sets. You can also see the snapshots graphed into a large image, where the fastest loading site has the shortest horizontal bar. The site fell over during my testing, so I wasn’t able to grab that image.

First Set

Speed test of nine IYPs
Speed test video of nine IYPs (click to view)

Second Set

Second set (click to view)
Second set (click to view)

Third Set

Third set (click to view video)
Third set (click to view video)

The rankings were surprising, namely, they were not in the approximate sequence of their organic rankings.

Detailed Results

First, the following is the order of search rankings from the earlier blog post, but when you click the name, you will be taken to their page load time test results:

  1. Superpages.com
  2. Yellowpages.com
  3. Yahoo.com
  4. Yelp.com
  5. Citysearch.com
  6. Areaconnect.com
  7. Insiderpages.com
  8. Magicyellow.com
  9. Yellowbook.com
  10. Yellowbot.com
  11. Dexknows.com
  12. Switchboard.com
  13. Merchantcircle.com
  14. Iaf.net
  15. Local.com
  16. Yellowusa.com
  17. Kudzu.com
  18. Lycos.com
  19. Getfave.com
  20. Judysbook.com
  21. Loqal.com
  22. Yellow.com
  23. Bizjournals.com
  24. Business.com
  25. Ibegin.com
  26. Openlist.com

The table below shows rankings based on Page Speed. You can sort any column you wish (but the table plugin is buggy, so it isn’t a numeric sort):

[table "0" not found /]

Sites that were towards the bottom of the earlier study are towards the top of the page speed rankings because they load quickly and have scored well in the tests.

Time to load fully — Many large sites have a large analytics tracking code which might be still loading when the visible content is fully loaded. The scores are not in the same order as the load times. Yelp is a little slow compared to the others but has a high score. Superpages is third last according to this test, although it should be mentioned that this was a test of the home page load times and not business profile pages — not all IYPs have BPPs but they do have a home page.

Compressed text and images appear to influence this ranking test heavily. Yahoo, Citysearch and Yelp have done well in both tests.

The CDN isn’t that important for the organic rankings and not every site has enough traffic to warrant it. Such tools don’t know the traffic levels of these sites, so it is appropriate not to make it a major factor.

Conclusion

Page load times are less critical than content relevance and external links. Making an effort to speed up the site will certainly help users even if it doesn’t have a major influence on organic search ranking. This was a check of IYPs, but the principle applies to all kinds of websites.

Ash Nallawalla

Search strategist experienced in large, complex websites. Ash's Google+ profile

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