A professional website needs to load quickly. Fast loading times equal lower bounce rates, better conversions, and general benefits for your online image.
Google PageSpeed is a service that promises to analyze your site and identify problems that might be lowering your speeds. PageSpeed is one of the best analytics tools on the internet, and it’s used by both professional developers and individual business owners.
However, like any tool on the internet, PageSpeed has its issues. If your site has trouble loading, you shouldn’t rely on PageSpeed as your only source of information. Doing so will waste your time and might even lead you to remove an important feature of your site.
Problems with Google PageSpeed
Thanks to a combination of slow updates and bad branding, Google PageSpeed doesn’t really live up to the promises it makes. If you aren’t careful, the changes this service recommends might actually damage your beautifully-built website.
Lack of Speed Measurements
“Speed” is in the name of Google PageSpeed, so naturally, people think it will make their site faster. But as many users have been disappointed to realize, Google PageSpeed just doesn’t have that much to do with speed.
When you upload your site to Google PageSpeed, you’ll be given a “grade” that is supposed to represent how efficiently your site runs. However the grade is not dependent on your site’s actual speed.
This is because PageSpeed ranks based on a series of features that the Google team thinks are important for a functioning site. If your site doesn’t have those features, you’ll get a bad score – even if you have an amazing loading speed.
The second problem with Google PageSpeed is that many of the recommendations are unrealistic. Here are just a few examples of impossible suggestions that the site makes:
Telling you to add expire headers to files that don’t exist on your site.
Requesting that you “Eliminate Render-Blocking Resources” when they are a vital part of your site’s CSS.
The real issue is that the people who use Google PageSpeed usually aren’t skilled web developers. Unless you know what you’re doing, these suggestions will add confusion and encourage you to make changes that you don’t really understand.
Some of the suggestions that PageSpeed makes are unrealistic, but others are downright bad for your site. And unless you understand why these features were put into place, you just might end up making the quality of your site far worse.
One example of this is a recommendation that you “enable text compression” on your site. While this could technically make your site faster, it could also easily ruin the beautiful web design that you paid for. Compressed text can look flat and blurry – not exactly the impression you want for your high-end brand.
PageSpeed might also complain if you’re using a custom plugin that Google’s page analyzer doesn’t understand. Adding features technically makes your site run more slowly, but that doesn’t mean you should delete them. This is why it’s important to trust a real developer instead of the recommendations of an algorithm.
Google PageSpeed’s service doesn’t have a clear audience. It’s too confusing for laymen, and it’s too clunky for real developers. With an unclear directive and a messy interface, it’s no surprise that this service is dropping out of popularity.
The only way to improve your PageSpeed score is to make all of the listed changes. If one of the changes is impossible, your score is stuck where it is. And since there’s no real person determining the quality of your site, there’s no one to ask if you’re confused.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Google PageSpeed is completely unhelpful; if you know what you’re doing, the service can be incredibly useful. But you definitely shouldn’t follow the recommendations literally in pursuit of a better PageSpeed score.
Making Google PageSpeed Work for You
If you want to give Google PageSpeed a try, you should know how to get the most out of the service. This quick guide will help you understand what the service is offering so you can decide whether to actually make the changes.
Should You Use Google PageSpeed?
Before you try to wrangle with Google PageSpeed, you should make sure the service is what you’re looking for. If you don’t meet everything on this checklist, PageSpeed simply might not be worth your time.
Is your site running slowly? Don’t fix things that aren’t broken. If your site doesn’t have loading issues, Google PageSpeed might just make you confused and frustrated.
Do you understand the recommendations? After you’ve loaded the Googe PageSpeed report for your site, take a quick look at the changes that have been recommended. If you understand most of them, you’re ready to use the service. But if you don’t know how to make the changes, you should let your developer handle it instead.
Are you ready to make changes? The final question you should ask yourself is whether you have the time to improve your website. When you make one change, you may have to make another to compensate. Always backup your site, and never make changes unless you have time to complete the process.
Choosing Relevant Indicators
If you’re confident that you can handle the changes Google PageSpeed is recommending, it’s fine to update your site. Remember, you should always save a complete backup of your site in an offline location. This will allow you to revert to a working version of your website in case anything goes wrong.
After you put your website into PageSpeed, you will need to wait a few minutes while the analytics are completed. You’ll then be given a page with a bunch of data like “Speed Index” and “First Contentful Paint.”
Don’t pay too much attention to this data. Instead, scroll down to the page until you reach two sections called “Opportunities” and “Diagnostics.” These areas will list all of the recommended changes that PageSpeed thinks will improve your site.
PageSpeed flags some changes with a red triangle; these are intended to be the most important. Others are marked with a yellow square; these changes might help, but they aren’t urgent.
Make a list of any PageSpeed recommendations that make sense to you and which will not damage your site. If you click on the carrot next to the section titled “Estimated Savings,” you can view file details for each of the recommendations. Use these file names to identify which actual elements of your site should be corrected.
Making and Testing Changes
Now that you’ve selected your changes, it’s time to actually make them. Remember to backup your site before your first change. If possible, consider only making changes to an offline version of your site. You can go live once you’re sure that everything is working correctly.
After you’ve completed your list of changes and know that your site works, run it through PageSpeed one more time. Check to see if your scores at the top of the page have improved at all. Then, scroll down to your “Opportunities” section. If you did everything correctly, you should see a different list of changes – or, if you’re lucky, you won’t see any changes at all.
You don’t have to make every change that PageSpeed recommends in order to improve your site. Try making one or two changes at a time, and always remember to save between versions.
How to Improve Your Site’s Speed
If you’re already thinking about using Google PageSpeed, your site’s speed could probably be improved. Slow speeds can be caused by a variety of factors, which is why analytic tools like PageSpeed can be so important. However, there are a few changes that can be applied to nearly any site to shave entire seconds off its loading time.
Run a Speed Check
Before you start tinkering with your site, run a speed check to see how well it’s actually functioning. There are many different speed check sites available, and each one offers different benefits. Look for a site that reports loading times from multiple servers and tells you how large the file size is. Grading and analytics tools are helpful, but they aren’t necessary. Here are a few of the best ones to try in 2020:
- Pingdom: Pingdom offers reliable speed testing alongside a decent set of features. With analytics and improvement recommendations, this site is a good alternative to Google PageSpeed. The most useful feature might be the “Requests by Content Type” section, which allows you to see exactly which features are dragging your site down.
- Uptrends: Uptrends is an easy-to-use service that lets you test both the desktop and mobile versions of your site. Uptrends also recommends performance improvements and identifies which files are slowing you down the most.
- Sitechecker: Sitechecker is devoted to SEO analytics, but the site also offers a good speed checker. The service will give you various speed and SEO improvement recommendations. However, if you don’t have the pro version, you might have a slight delay before you get to see your results.
Find a speed checker that you like, and get comfortable using all of its features. Whenever you make a change to your site, run new speed checks from multiple servers across the country. Remember that although recommendations may be helpful, they won’t be any more authoritative than the ones from Google PageSpeed.
Reduce the Size of Your Images
Large images and media files will almost always prevent a site from loading quickly. You can usually notice that the images are the problem because they will load after the rest of the content on your page. When this happens, it either means that you have too many images or that one or more of the files is too big.
Most media browsers will allow you to check file sizes. If one of your images or videos is much larger than the others, try removing it before you run another speed check. If your site loads quickly, then you know for sure where the problem was.
If you made your site’s images yourself, try saving a lower-quality version of them in your favorite editing program. You can also use an online image compression tool to get a similar effect.
Be careful when reducing your image quality, especially if you aren’t sure this is the problem with your site. High-quality images look more professional, and reducing the quality will almost always result in blurriness and pixelation. Don’t forget to save high-quality copies of every image in a place where you can easily access them.
Remove Outdated Plugins
Plugins can do a lot of cool things for your site, but they can also slow it down. This is why you should only use plugins that you know how to use and which are essential for the function of your site.
Go to your site’s plugin list, and review every installation. Do you recognize what each plugin does? When was it made, and does it still have developer support? Consider replacing plugins that haven’t been updated in the last three years. Consider removing plugins that don’t serve any important functions; analytics plugins are a good choice for removal.
With that said, never uninstall a plugin without permission from your web developer. You never know when removing something will break your site’s code. If you’re working on your own, always save a copy of your site before you press “uninstall.”
Contact Your Hosting Provider
The loading speed of a website is determined by several factors, including the amount of data on the page and the speed of the user’s internet connection. However, one factor that many people overlook is the quality of the server on which your site is hosted.
If you’re using cheap website hosting, you might not be getting the full speed your site deserves. Some companies limit how big your site can be, while others offer different speeds based on the quality of your subscription. Buying a better plan might fix your loading problems – just make sure you’re getting a good deal from a reputable hosting service.
Because your hosting provider has access to your site, they might also be able to help you identify the cause of your speed issues. If you have a good relationship with your provider, ask them to review your site for a small fee. They’ll be able to tell you if the problem is server space or something more serious. Be aware that dishonest hosting companies will always try to sell you more server space, even if that isn’t actually the problem.
Improving the speed of your site is a matter of trial and error. Tools like Google PageSpeed are useful, but they can’t replace real industry knowledge. If you’re still having trouble after reading this guide, don’t be afraid to contact a professional web developer; they’ll be able to identify and solve the problem much more quickly than you will be able to on your own.
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