Short answer: somewhere between \u201ccompletely irrelevant\u201d and \u201cso crucial that you should slash and burn your site\u2019s best features if it speeds loading time by a few milliseconds.\u201dThat’s hyperbole, of course, but it speaks to the confusion over this issue and the contradictory arguments from experts and even from Lord Google (and Archduke Bing) themselves.As academics like to say, let\u2019s \u201cunpack\u201d this challenge, figure out what really matters and why, and tour the most effective tools out there for transforming your site into something The Flash would be proud of.What Google and Bing Are Telling UsWay back in the dark ages of 2010, Google graced us with the following POV, which roughly also applies to 2015: \u201cwe’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web\u2026 Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests\u2026 Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed \u2014 that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.\u201dFor what it’s worth, Bing also has a perspective on the matter: \u201cPage Load Time (PLT)\u2026 has a direct impact on the satisfaction a user has when they visit your website.\u00a0Slow load times can lead to a visitor simply leaving your website, seeking their information elsewhere.\u00a0If they came from our search results that may appear to us to be an unsatisfactory result that we showed. Faster is better, but take care to balance absolute page load speed with a positive, useful user experience.\u201dThe \u201cDoes Page Speed Matter?\u201d Debate \u2013 Competing Points of ViewCiting Akamai and Gomez.com surveys that found that apparently our whole society has become as ADHD as an Ed, Edd & Eddy episode: half of web users expect sites to load within 2 seconds, and people will abandon a site within 3 seconds if it doesn\u2019t. The smart folks at Kissmetric breathlessly continue: \u201c79% of web shoppers who have trouble with web site performance say they won\u2019t return to the site to buy again and around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online.This means you\u2019re not just losing conversions from visitors currently on your site, but that loss is magnified to their friends and colleagues as well. The end result \u2013 lots of potential sales down the drain because of a few seconds difference.\u201d [bold in original]These warnings certainly stimulate the reptilian parts the brain and get people panicked. But is it really fair to extrapolate like this? Have you ever told a friend \u201cdon\u2019t use XYZ site. It took 3 seconds to load, not 2. I hate them now and will never buy their stuff, and you shouldn\u2019t either. Burn it to the ground!\u201d?There\u2019s no need to get hysterical.As this blogger notes: \u201cUX simply isn\u2019t the only reason why users come to you. Think about it. When you are building an app or website, you are building something that helps users with their needs or wants. I tend to look at it this way: If users need you enough, they wouldn\u2019t mind dealing with kinks and flaws in your UX. On the other hand, if your services are not relevant, needed or wanted, even the best UX designer cannot rescue you from that inevitable pit of failure.\u201dMany SEO mavens also like to cite research done by Microsoft analysts Ron Kohavi and Roger Longbotham, who found that a 0.1 decrease in page response times led to a 1% decrease in sales. Scale that up, and that statistic works marketers into a lather. For Amazon, people have calculated that a 1 second decrease in loading time would translate directly into $1.6 billion in lost business\u2026 (all things being equal of course, which they\u2019re not.) Kohavi and Longbotham published their paper back in 2007, which, while only 8 years distant from today in real time, might as well be the Hadean Era given the speed of change in our industry. And as Kohavi and Longbotham themselves noted in their paper: \u201cWe reserve the most important lesson for the end, and it\u2019s called Twyman\u2019s law: Any statistic that appears interesting is almost certainly a mistake. Make sure to double-check your data and computations.\u201dExtrapolating, their point makes a helluva lot of sense. Theory is nice. But rather than obsessing over speed (possibly pointlessly) or ignoring it (possibly at your peril), why not test?Some nice folks have done just that for us. Geoff Kenyon, writing for Moz back in 2011 (again, effectively an aeon ago, but still relevant to the 2015 game\u2026) ran an interesting experiment and concluded in measured fashion: \u201csite speed will affect only queries where other ranking signals are very close or when the load time is exceptionally poor. If competing pages have high relevancy scores and close link metrics (which isn\u2019t probable), page speed may come into play. Additionally, I believe that site speed could negatively hurt you if your page takes an excruciatingly painful amount of time to load.\u201d Matt Cutts has also argued that page speed is a \u201csmall-impact\u201d consideration, \u201cso you don\u2019t need to panic.\u201d At the same time, he emphasizes (and this is of course true) that \u201cspeeding up your website is a great thing to do in general. Visitors to your site will be happier (and might convert more or use your site more), and a faster web will be better for all.\u201dBacklink also offered a measured take, discussing speed in the context of 200 SEO factors in October 2015: \u201cBoth Google and Bing use page loading speed as a ranking factor. Search engine spiders can estimate your site speed fairly accurately based on a page\u2019s code and filesize.\u201d Also, \u201cGoogle may also use Chrome user data to get a better handle on a page\u2019s loading time as this takes into account server speed, CDN usage and other non HTML-related site speed signals.\u201dTools If You Feel the Need for SpeedGoogle tells us the following: \u201cMonitor your site’s performance and optimize load times\u2026 Google strongly recommends that all webmasters regularly monitor site performance using Page Speed, YSlow, WebPagetest, or other tools. For more information, tools, and resources, see Let’s Make The Web Faster.\u201dSome things you can do to speed things up:Avoid redirects that violate responsive design best practicesSave bytes by optimizing and compressing your imagesLoad the key content (\u201cabove the fold\u201d) firstGet rid of unnecessary unused code and formattingWatch your pluginsAllow gzip compression to improve first render of your page and consume less data usageSome tools you can use to speed things up:Page SpeedYSlowPingdomWebPagetestConclusionPage speed is marginally important as one of the many design and SEO factors you want to tune into. But don\u2019t get tunnel vision or get freaked out by misleading doomsday statistics that say a fractionally slower site will kill your business and profits. Marketing fundamentals still apply, just as they did in 2014, in 2013, in 2012 and so on backwards in time to the beginning of human commerce.Use tools to measure and improve your speed. Stay alert to best practices (or hire someone who will do that for you). Run experiments and tests as needed. And move on. To clumsily paraphrase Mahatma Ghandi, There is more to building your online business than increasing the speed of your website.