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Google’s Matt Cutts hinted this past week that Google is considering using a site’s speed as part of the algorithm that ranks the order of pages in its search results. Fast sites might rank higher, while slower-loading sites might suffer. It’s a proposal that’s proving controversial.

To quote from Cutts’ video interview on WebProNews:

“We’re starting to think more and more about should speed be a factor in Google’sGoogle rankings?

…A lot of people within Google think that the web should be fast, it should be a good experience; and so it’s sort of fair to say if you’re a fast site, maybe you should get a little bit of a bonus. Or maybe if you have a really awfully slow site, users don’t want that as much.”

Reasons for Ranking Fast Sites Higher

I can think of plenty of good reasons why Google might pursue this strategy: a fast web is better for users, site owners, and Google itself. For instance:

1. Google searches are more productive: Giving fast-loading sites a boost in the rankings improves the user experience for those coming from You’ll know that if a site is near the top of the results, you won’t be waiting an eternity after clicking.

2. User experience improvements on wider web: with site owners incentivized to improve speed to appease Google, the whole web might speed up. That’s better for users.

3. More revenue for everyone: Google ads are everywhere on the web, so giving site owners an incentive to address speed issues increases pageviews, clicks and revenue for both the publishers and Google itself.

Reasons Against Ranking Fast Sites Higher

Some are none too pleased with the proposal, however. In particular, blogger Douglas Karr is up in arms about the idea that Google would prioritize fast sites and penalize slow ones.

His main argument against the move: penalizing slow sites would mean that the “little guy”, running a successful site on his GoDaddy hosting account, would be knocked out of the Google rankings by big companies that could afford “loadsharing, caching, web acceleration or cloud technologies”. There are other strong reasons against too:

1. Favors big / powerful sites: As Karr notes, big companies are best able to plow resources into technical prowess. This could disrupt Google’s egalitarian basis, and the whole idea of the web as a meritocracy.

2. Greatest benefits go to Google: Who benefits most from results loading fast for the user? Who gets the most benefit when millions of sites running AdSense suddenly have a lot more inventory (users click more on faster sites)? Who saves masses of money on crawling the web if web site owners optimize their pages for speed? Which company is able to grow its stock price faster the more people get online and have a good web experience? Google, Google, Google. Publishers get an individual benefit, of course, but in aggregate the value is really greatest for Google itself.

3. The fastest site isn’t always the best result: If I’m searching for a local business, I probably want to find its website. But local businesses rarely have sites optimized for speed; the big business listings sites would almost certainly score higher on the speed metric. The same rule applies across numerous industries: speed and relevance are not related.

If you aren’t familiar with the term Geo Targeting, it’s the method used by search engines to determine where you’re searching from, so they can provide you with (what they think) are the best search results or ads based on your location (ie. country, region/state, city, post/zip code etc.)

How do they do this?

By looking at a number of factors, such as:

  • Country-specific domain name – eg. .com or or etc. etc.
  • Where your site is hosted – be careful with this as a lot of hosting providers may have their offices in one country, but use servers and equipment based overseas
  • Language used in your website content – even things like UK English vs. US English can make a difference due to spelling and colloquialisms
  • Inbound Links to your site – are they mainly from other Australian websites, US sites, UK sites etc.
  • Listing of your address / location / phone number on your website
  • Location of people who look at your site – if your site has more traffic from Australian visitors it is likely to rank better in than it would in

7 Simple Geo Targeting Tips for Your Site

Knowing the above information makes it a lot easier to perform a Geo Targeting audit on your site. Here are the things I would do:

  1. If you run an Australian website and your main customers / clients are other Australians, spend the few extra dollars and buy a domain name. If you’re targeting clients in the UK, buy a etc. etc.
  2. Apply the same logic (as above) to the web hosting – spend a few extra dollars to have your website hosted in the country that you are targeting.Be sure to check that your hosting provider uses equipment based in your country too. If you still aren’t certain you can check their IP’s using SEOmoz’s IP Location Tool.
  3. Take the time to check your spelling and use the type of wording your clients will understand and are familiar with.For example the term swimwear, swimsuit, beachwear, cozzies, bathers and togs all mean the same thing but people in Queensland, Australia (where I’m from) rarely use the term bathers or cozzies – we wear ‘togs’.
  4. An inbound link is like a personal referral or testimonial for your website. Having links from other relevant local sites will be far more valuable with Geo Targeting than having lots of inbound links from overseas sites.
  5. Submit your site to local business and local search directories – this can often be one of the easiest methods of attracting local links and local traffic.As a rule-of-thumb, just make sure the directory presents well and that you are comfortable being listed amongst the other sites that are in the directory. If you think the directory isn’t great quality, you’re probably right and it should be avoided.
  6. Mention your address, location and contact details in the footer of each page – this is one of the easiest things to do which can help tell your clients and the search engines that you are a local business.The only time this doesn’t really help is if you have offices in multiple locations. Mentioning a dozen countries / cities in the footer won’t do much for your local profile in each of those places. If this is the case you should build separate sites (or at the very least separate pages) for each location.
  7. Build your brand locally as you will usually rank well for your business name before you’ll start ranking for more competitive terms.Ensure you promote your site through off-line advertising methods, which can be as simple as including your website on your business cards, letterheads and other corporate stationary.

    This will help you gain local search traffic and as mentioned above, if your site has more traffic from Australian visitors it is likely to rank better in than it would in

  • Keyword in URL
    Find Keyword Use Google Keyword Tool (Google)
  • Keyword in Domain name
    Same as in page-name-with-hyphens
  • Keyword Header
  • Keyword in Title tag
    Keyword in Title tag – close to beginning
    Title tag 10 – 60 characters, no special characters.
  • Keyword in Description Meta Tag
    Shows theme – less than 200 chars.
    Google no longer “relies” upon this tag, but will often use it.
  • Keyword in Keyword Meta Tag
    Shows theme – less than 10 words.
    Every word in this tag MUST appear somewhere in the body text. If not, it can be penalized for irrelevance.
    No single word should appear more than twice.
  • Keywords in Body
  • Keyword Density in Body (6 % Max)
  • Keyword in H1,H2,H3
    Use Hx font style tags appropriately
  • Keyword font size
    “Strong is treated the same as bold, italic is treated the same as emphasis” . . . Matt Cutts July 2006
  • Keyword proximity (for 2+ keywords)
    Directly adjacent is best
  • Keyword phrase order
  • Keyword prominence (how early in page/tag)
  • Keyword in alt text
  • Keyword in links to site pages (anchor text)
  • All Internal links valid?
    Validate all links to all pages on site.
    Use a free link checker. I like this one.
  • Intra-site linking
  • OUTGOING LINKS (External Links)
    Google patent – Link only to good sites. Do not link to link farms. CAREFUL – Links can and do go bad, resulting in site demotion. Unfortunately, you must devote the time necessary to police your outgoing links – they are your responsibility.
  • Outgoing link Anchor Text
  • File Size
    Try not to exceed 100K page size (however, some subject matter, such as this page, requires larger file sizes).
    Smaller files are preferred <40K (lots of them).
  • Freshness of Pages
    Google patent – Changes over time
    Newer the better – if news, retail or auction!
    Google likes fresh pages. So do It
  • Freshness of Links
    Google patent – May be good or bad
    Excellent for high-trust sites
    May not be so good for newer, low-trust sites
  • URL length
    Keep it minimized – use somewhat less than the 2,000 characters allowed by IE – less than 100 is good, less is even better
  • Site Age
    Google patent – Old is best. Old is Golden.
  • Age of page vs. age of site
    Age of page vs. age of other pages on site
    Newer pages on an older site will get faster recognition.

July 2020




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