Why Good Hosting is Important 18 December, 2006 — Stuart Brown
Or, how a dedicated host cured all my Google woes
Google knows an awful lot about the web, and one of the things the Googlebot tracks is the response time of your pages. If you know where to look, Google will also gladly divulge their data on your site via the Webmaster console, hidden away in the 'Crawl stats' section of the diagnostic tab.
Click on the 'Time spent downloading a page (in milliseconds)', and the goodies wil finally be revealed - a graph showing historical response time data on your site. If you're so inclined, you can also find out just how busy the Googlebot has been with your site.
As some of you may know, as of November 10th Modern Life has had the benefit of a dedicated server, and the page response time graph reflects this fact:
Prior to the upgrade, average page responses range from about a second to a whopping 5 seconds - post-upgrade, a silky smooth 0.25 seconds, even enduring the Digg effect without so much as a pause.
All fairly self explanatory stuff, perhaps - but the question is, why is Google recording this data? Surely not just for our benefit?
One of the newer features of the Google Webmaster console is that to control the relative frequency of Googlebot visits - with the option to turn down the frequency for those sites which may struggle with the bandwidth / load.
It's not a major stretch, then, to assume that the amount and frequency of spidering is based in part on the page response time - if Google detects a slowing in page response rate, it may slacken off the spidering in response to that.
Perhaps the effects of a quick page response are more important than the rate of spidering - could Google be using this data to build a profile of responsiveness across sites? Could this be yet another factor in ranking?
Perhaps - perhaps not. I don't think page response time is a major factor in ranking quite yet, but with the introduction of this feature in the Webmaster Console, perhaps sites that take a long time to load will see a slow decline in Google traffic? Response time is touted as one of the more important factors in usability, after all.
Since the improvement in response time here at Modern Life, I've seen a steady increase in Google referrals - but are these a result of increasing inbound links and the aging of the site, or of the increase in responsiveness?
In all honesty, I suspect it's the former - but it's at least slightly interesting to consider whether Google factor such factors as page load time. They're certainly recording data about sites - how they use it in the future remains to be seen. Regardless of Google, good hosting - and hence responsiveness and uptime - is important to users, and could be more decisive than keyword density and link building in the future.