If speed were a ranking factor, Google would implode because of all the burning bits of data.
Naahh. We’re only kidding.
This question was posed in a recent podcast from the three search engine gurus most commonly known as the faces of Google: John Mueller, Gary Illyes, and Martin Splitt. They are all Search Advocates on the Google Search Relations Team.
Here, we’re going to examine some insights from the discussion they held earlier this month, and see what we can identify as potential factors that could be implemented in a new search engine named Steve.
This topic turned into a 29-minute discussion that proved to shine a lot of light on the thought process behind creating a search engine and perhaps what factors are weighted most, and which are weighted least.
Of course, they don’t give out all the details behind Google. But we can still ascertain certain insights from the conversation.
First, we’re going to discuss our insights, and then you will be able to read the podcast (and listen to it yourself, if you prefer). Let’s dive in, shall we?
Our SEO Insights
In their version of a search engine, which they lovingly call “Steve,” they discuss first the importance of not releasing all ranking factors information. This makes sense because anyone who knows every single ranking factor is going to attempt to game their algorithm, which is something they want to prevent.
Just. Don’t. Use It. Is Gary’s recommendation—he even goes so far as to call it a career-ending decision.
The Weight of Ranking Signals
How much an individual ranking signal should be counted towards actual ranking is a consideration, including whether speed should be used as a tiebreaker or if it should be a primarily-weighted ranking factor. The difference is that the primary ranking factor weighs a lot more and has the potential to influence many hundreds of thousands of website results. A tiebreaker is a factor used when everything else between two sites is equal. In those cases, the tiebreaking factor will be the deciding factor on which site moves up in the rankings.
Persistence of Certain Problems Is a Factor
At least when deciding which ranking factors to implement and which ones not to. For example, if someone uses a plugin like Nitropack to fake page speed numbers, then that is something that Google might account for in a coming update. If it’s less widespread, such as maybe a spammer getting around a loophole once or twice, it will probably take awhile for them to implement a response.
Either way, this is something that varies with the persistence of each spam technique throughout the SEO world. In other words, if you know of something that helps you, think twice before sharing it with everyone. It could be that same technique that is labeled as spam in a year or two.
Fast, Empty Pages with No Value Don’t Deserve to Rank
John Mueller explains this extensively in the podcast. If you create a fast, empty page with no content, providing absolutely no value to the user, you are not going to rank above similarly fast pages with great content and user value.
It’s critical to create pages that deliver value to the user on top of having fast core web vitals numbers. If that crucial element is missing, then page speed will mean nothing.
How to Promote and Tell People about the Ranking Factors?
Clearly, a sitewide banner wouldn’t work. So a “Steve off the Record” podcast was suggested.
The point about not telling everybody everything is stressed, because that knowledge would be used to game the system.
Instead, the usual trickling of information process is recommended as a way to keep webmasters informed of certain ranking factors and their changes as things continue to move forward.
The Podcast Transcript
How to Listen to the Podcast
If you want to listen to this particular podcast episode feel free to visit the YouTube link below:
It looks like this may become a regular podcast, so keep an eye on the Google Search Central YouTube channel for more episodes!