According to Google, a website can lose as many as half its visitors while loading. This means you want to keep load times short and sweet to maximize user experience. However, your MachMetrics reports are showing that your page load times are much too slow. That’s valuable information, but what’s the next step? Now that you know you’re lagging, it’s time to kick your remediation plan into high gear. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tools may be just what you need to leverage data collected through speed testing.
What is PageSpeed Insights?
Having too many large images, files, and plugins may slow down site speed or server response times and that is where PageSpeed testers come in. Google offers a host of useful resources for web developers and PageSpeed Insights is just one of several free web performance tools that can help you check your speed score, boost your page load times and significantly improve user experience. As part of the PageSpeed Tools suite, Insights is designed to guide your response to slow speeds, resulting in optimal performance. You’ll get speedier operation across all devices, making this a versatile response tool when your MachMetrics data is showing potentially damaging lag.
PageSpeed Insights provides analysis of what it refers to as “common performance best practices,” and it’s a relatively low-level tool that is useful for small websites, particularly those that run on a content management system (CMS) like WordPress. Google has some much more advanced tools for developers to use in analyzing and repairing the issues that lead to slow load times.
To use PageSpeed Insights, all you have to do is enter a URL into the address bar on the PageSpeed Insights page, then click “analyze.” The test will take a few seconds to complete, and results for both mobile and desktop devices will display in separate tabs. A score will display at the top of each tab, giving you an instant idea of how fast your load times are at that specific URL for both mobile and desktop. You’ll want to repeat this test for each page on your site or at least those with concerning speed issues.
Understanding Your PageSpeed Insights Score
I’m going to say something here that a lot of people are going to disagree with:
Your PageSpeed Insights Score is worthless.
Yup, ignore it! Here’s why: too many people focus on getting a top score, and they lose focus on measuring the real load time that is experienced by your users.
Plus, the scores don’t always correlate to faster load times. I’ve seen great scores with poor load times, and super fast sites with bad insights score.
I’ve also seen many people turn a great site into a maintenance nightmare by chasing a perfect PageSpeed Insights score. Don’t do it! You have to weigh the benefit of every change you make.
So does that mean Google Pagespeed Insights is worthless? Absolutely not…
Improving Your Score
Again – don’t focus on improving your score. But do pay attention to the list of suggestions that Google has. By trying these tips, and watching how your page load times change in response to them, you’ll be able to get a faster site overall.
Because PageSpeed Insights works off of a set list of speed and usability rules, suggestions for performance improvement will be based on these rules. Google regularly updates these rules to stay in line with the latest best practices for website performance. This means that improving your score today might not guarantee a high score six months or a year from now.
Make sure you’re paying attention to which tab you’re in so you don’t try to make unnecessary changes for either mobile or desktop if the problem is only a factor in one case.
Google’s user interface for this system is fantastically simple. You’ll see “Possible Optimizations” and “Optimizations Found.” The “Optimizations Found” category is the stuff your page is already doing correctly, though again, this may change over time. For now, though, you only need to focus on the Possible Optimizations.
Under this list, you may find short suggestions such as “minify HTML” or “prioritize visible content.” Most front-end developers will understand what this means and may even know how to fix the problem right away. If you don’t know or feel confused, that’s OK. In this case, you can simply click the text reading “Show how to fix” under each suggested optimization to expand and learn all the basic steps to fix the problem. Do this with each optimization so you can really make the most of PageSpeed Insights.
Here’s your process:
- Measure your page load time
- Perform an optimization that Google PSI recommends
- Measure your page load time again. If it made your site faster, keep it. Otherwise revert it.
- Repeat until you’ve tried everything PSI suggested.
This trial and error process is cumbersome, but if you have site speed monitoring in place that removes half of the hassle.
Why This Matters for Speed
How does all this affect your page load times? Google uses PageSpeed Insights to zero in on the things that are most likely to cause delays while loading. Fix these specific issues and you’ll probably have a faster-loading website. Again, though, the score isn’t all-knowing. “Best practices” simply means that PageSpeed Insights is focusing on what’s most likely to make a difference and what’s widely held to improve performance. Your mileage may vary. Ultimately, giving PageSpeed Insights a shot is better than simply leaving your site performance in the hands of fate.