Monday, March 24

Jakob Neilsen Trumped by Webcrawlers

Google recently announced a new modification to their natural search rankings, based on site page file weight/download time. Sites with excessive file sizes will be ranked lower than other sites with similar content. According to this Mediapost blog:

Google states that this initiative will: 1) improve user experience and 2) help advertisers improve conversion rates. Google plans to roll this out over the coming weeks and provide advertisers with load-time calculations for review. Site owners will have 4 weeks to review their load-time stats and make changes before Google will integrate load time into the Quality algorithm.
Is this Google's first step into enforcing good usability practices across the world wide web? In a world that increasingly goes broadband, does it really make a difference? Or maybe a strategic move to get sites ready for their Android mobile platform, which would benefit from faster page downloads. Whatever the motivation, MySpace page owners are screwed.

You have to imagine that the sites penalized the most will be the big marketers. The ones spending money to build big beautiful, and often Flash heavy, sites. The same ones who buy Google keywords through Adsense. Bumping them down the natural search results would be one way to force them to buy more keywords.

I'm sure the SEO companies are loving it. Especially the ones who have been quietly building up site creative/production capabilities. Nothing helps a new business pitch like showing clients that not only do they rank on page 3 of search results for cherished industry keywords, but their current agency's bloated Flash content is the cause. Better pull those HTML 3.0 developers out of retirement.

Unfortunately the sites with the slimmest file size are the fake content ones. Those run by people trying to make a quick buck by serving up a bunch of ad links on their landing page and collecting the referral fees. Which means Google might be inadvertently promoting search spam.

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