Can Page Load Speed Improve Organic Ranking? Seems like it!

SearchMetrics recently released a case study on page load time vs page rank, and we wanted to put it to the test.

We recently read a case study from Search Metrics, where they noted a correlation between page load speed and ranking, primarily in top positions. They found that for positions 1-5 in search results, there’s a correlation such that the fastest site in that range will likely be position 1, while slowest will be 5.

They also mentioned how frequently they saw AMP in their results, and which types of AMP results — organic, top stories, mixed carousel, publisher carousel — showed up for various industries. Overall, around 60% of the time they found some type of AMP integration in their search results.

It’s great to see that 60% of search results contained some sort of AMP integration — as the technology is a guaranteed way to speed up page loads and deliver a better experience to users.

But the article got us thinking.

How Does AMP Affect Average Search Position?

We’ve created millions of AMP pages, and dug into performance data for them. Can we identify the same kind of performance gain that Search Metrics reported? Can AMP push a site from ranking 4-5 to ranking 1-2 on queries?

After looking at 11 clients across a variety of industries, we found that AMP does improve a query’s ranking by more than one position, if the query was ranking well previously.

How We Calculated AMP’s Search Position Improvements

Using the Google Search Console (GSC) API, we downloaded query set data for 30 days before launching AMP and 30 days after launching AMP. Thankfully, a recent update to GSC API provides access to 16 months of data, so it’s possible to download query sets for AMP projects that launched last year.

Next, we compared before and after query sets, calculating positional changes between the before period and AMP data. This set was then filtered to show only AMP queries in the top 5 spots that also had positional data before launch. We then calculated the average positional change within this subset for each client, coming to an average positional improvement of 1.2.

What Else Did We Find?

Around 25% of the AMP queries in the top 5 spots were unranked prior to launching AMP. This could be because of seasonal changes, but it’s likely also due to query expansion from long tail terms, a topic we covered in a previous post.

Of the AMP queries in the top 5 spots that had traffic prior to launch, more than 99% of the gains were within 7 positions. So these queries were already ranking well, and AMP provided the additional push to land them in the coveted top position.

What Does AMP Improving Average Position Mean?

AMP can improve page speed dramatically, making pages 5-8x faster. If your site is already ranking on page one, implementing AMP not only provides your mobile users with a faster and more enjoyable experience, but there’s also potential to see your positions improve as well.

And, of course, moving up the ranks has the potential to drive additional traffic to your site.

With the multitude of articles regarding CTR vs position, it’s clear jumping from #5 to #3 can significantly increase clicks.