This past week, in an interview with Web Pro News, Matt Cutts from Google hinted that the load time of your page may become a factor in page ranking.

Google hasn’t released all of the details, and they probably won’t (we still don’t know the exact algorithms Google uses to determine page rank – it’s a closely guarded secret).

I think one thing everyone would agree with is that a fast website is preferable to a slow website. Waiting over one minute for a web page to load is pretty much unacceptable by anyone’s standards. Most web users have gotten used to quick internet connections, and waiting more than ten seconds for a page to load is probably too much for most people to stand.

However, there could be deeper implications for smaller web shops and hosting companies than what might appear at first glance.

On the surface, it seems like a reasonable thing for most web developers to strive for anyway. If your page is that slow, chances are your user experience is going to end up being pretty bad. You probably won’t get many hits, and after a while your views will start to decrease. You really shouldn’t be on the first page of Google anyway. It’s a good idea to keep speed in mind anyway, right?

Of course it is.

Here are the concerns some people are having with this concept hinted at by Google. 

Many small e-commerce sites, web shops, and hosting companies rely heavily on page ranking for their business to succeed. It’s an extremely cost effective way to advertise, and for some tech savvy companies, they can do all of this internally and not spend an extra dime for the increase in business. What happens to these companies when Google starts putting the pages that load faster on the top of the list?

If Google starts implementing this scheme based solely on page load times, Amazon.com or Ebay.com, or any companies with the financial capitol to do so will quickly upgrade their servers, connections, hardware, software, etc. to the newest and fastest technology at their disposal, no matter what the cost. Some big companies might even be able to finance development of new technology to increase speed.

For the smaller companies, however, with servers costing thousands of dollars, the likelihood of smaller companies being able to compete with larger firms becomes harder and harder, and much less likely, nearly impossible.

Of course, none of this is set in stone, and it really all stems from an interview with an employee of Google, albeit very high level employee. Google has yet to release more information about what they plan to do.

It is possible they could base rankings on scores from applications such as Yahoo’s YSlow or Google’s own speed tester. If that is the case, smaller firms would be able to optimize their websites to compete with larger firms.

At Design the Planet we optimize all of our sites using these tools, which help us get quick load times. The problem, eventually, will be that companies with billions of dollars to spend will always be able to out spend smaller companies.

Is it fair they should be out ranked only because of lack of capital to invest in better technology? Is it possible that Google isn’t the gentle giant after all?