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I am working on a project to improve the performance of my sites web pages and by removing render blocking CSS and JS have halved the DOMContentLoaded time of some critical pages but have not reduced the overall load time by anything substantial. I am measuring these times on the Network tab of Google Chrome Dev Tools.

My question is: does Google value the time to meaningful content (DOM time) more than overall load time and should I expect to see a ranking boost from improving the performance by 100%?

Or, as my overall load time has not decreased much will I not see much of a result as Google's algorithm weighs this more?

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  • Google only measures the time it takes for a page to load completely. How you get there does not matter. – closetnoc Mar 11 '16 at 5:36
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Google only uses the initial page load time (without CSS, JS, and images) as an explicit ranking signal. Google only explicitly penalizes very slow sites. If your site takes more than 7 seconds for the the initial HTML page, Google will de-rank your site until the performance of your server improves.

Faster load time of pages contributes to better user experience. Google will indirectly ranks sites better when they load quickly because the pages satisfy more visitors. When your site is fast fewer visitors hit the back button to the results and click on a competitor or revise their search.

Users only care that the page is usable. That typically means that you should pay attention to the dom loaded event. Anything that is "above the fold" and visible to users without scrolling should be loaded by that time. Anything below the fold can be lazy-loaded: it will enhance the perceived performance.

For SEO, you generally want your site to be usable in under three seconds. Improving the site to that point can give a nice SEO boost. Improving performance more can be great for your visitors. It can get you increased interaction and sales. However, it doesn't usually lead to better Google rankings.

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    It's worth mentioning that today, Google absolutely considers CSS, JS, and images as part of the load times, as evidenced in their PageSpeed Insights tools, with particular concern for render-blocking assets (aka CSS and Javascript). yoast.com/page-speed-ranking-factor – random_user_name Apr 16 '18 at 15:44
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    Google's tools can measure page load including assets, but Google doesn't use that as a rankings signal as far as I've been able to tell. Google doesn't need to. The benefits of improving load times for users are dramatic enough that poor performing sites get penalized through turning off users. – Stephen Ostermiller Apr 16 '18 at 16:14
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    Hm. What do you make of this article by Google then? – random_user_name Apr 17 '18 at 14:43
  • @cale_b I hadn't seen that. Google says they will be using loading speed including assets as an explicit ranking factor starting in July for mobile. As with previous speed updates, they say it will focus on penalizing really slow pages. So I doubt it will change anything practical you need to do for SEO. Just keep your full page load under 3 seconds. – Stephen Ostermiller Apr 17 '18 at 15:32

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