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Google adds site speed to search mix

Slow sites could get left behind in search results now that Google is taking site speed into account, although the change is more symbolic than punishing.

Google's famous recipe for determining how sites get ranked in search results has a new ingredient: site speed.

Two of Google's top search engineers--Google Fellow Amit Singhal and principal engineer Matt Cutts--announced the addition Friday, after hinting it would be coming for several months. It's actually been live for a few weeks, they said in a blog post Friday, and Google is using a variety of components to ascertain how much faster one Web page responds compared to another.

In general, one of Google's operating philosophies is that faster is better. It's not just them, either: the increased demand for real-time information shows just how much people want sites and pages to load quickly, and the world's attention spans certainly aren't getting any longer.

Still, speed will not trump relevancy in search rankings. Search Engine Land noted that Google employs over 200 factors in considering where to rank a search result, and Google said the change should affect fewer than 1 percent of search query results.

Site owners can use a wide variety of tools from Google, Yahoo, and third-party developers to measure the speed of their Web pages.