Site speed has historically been a secondary ranking variable. In other words, if a website took a long time to open, then Google would be slightly less likely to show the site. This makes sense because Google wants people who search to be happy. But it’s always been important only after the basic blocking and tackling: content, code, links.
It is also important to note that site speed generally slows down over time. The site itself might not change, but the speed will, when measured relative to algorithm updates. Saying it another way, speed is always relative.
In November 2018, Google launched a new tool called “Lighthouse” for measuring speed, and a lot of other tools began to mimic Google’s new tool. Sites that previously were registering high on Google’s former tool now measured much, much lower on the new tool. Ironically, here are some quality sites that have terrible site speed under the new tool:
HUFFINGTON POST: 23/100
YAHOO NEWS: 37/100
DAILY MAIL: 12/100
ABC NEWS: 5/100
The list could go on and on. Even Google itself only registers 58/100. Seriously.
On our side of things, we’re monitoring the impact of the new tools, and the cost-benefit analysis of improving speed. We’ll start rolling this into the calls, but we don’t believe it’s a worthwhile use of money increase speed by a few milliseconds unless we actually think that will truly help with rankings.