Speed is very important for a website. It’s so important that Google has made it an actual ranking factor. Over time, Google has taken action to improve the loading speed of websites by providing a set of tools for developers and webmasters. One of these tools is Google Lighthouse.
But how does this PageSpeed Insights Tool from Google actually work? And, more importantly, does page speed affect SEO? You’ll find everything you need to know in this article.
he PageSpeed Insights Tool didn’t use to be very good in the past. Most of the information there could be found relatively easy elsewhere and it didn’t quite indicate speed itself. However, Google has recently updated the tool and it’s a lot better. Unfortunately, it’s also a lot harder to understand.
However, this tool has became popular among SEOs through PageSpeed Insights, which is, in fact, powered by Lighthouse, but provides the information in an easy to follow format, on a web page.
What Is Google PageSpeed Insights?
PageSpeed Insights is an online tool provided by Google which is used to identify web performance issues on sites. Although mostly related to technical SEO issues, the tools also analyze the site from a User Experience and accessibility point of view.
You can enter the URL there and after a few seconds the tool will return a page with some results regarding your website’s performance. At the top, there will be a general score, which is an average of multiple factors. Below you will see detailed information about what actually affects your speed.
However, it isn’t the only PageSpeed tool provided by Google. There also is mod_pagespeed, a server module used to solve these speed issues, and the full fledged Lighthouse (the site analysis tool that powers everything), available in Chrome itself. There are also a number of Chrome Extensions related to Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
We will discuss briefly about all of them throughout this article, but we will focus mainly on PageSpeed Insights as it seems to be the handiest tool most SEOs use when checking a website.
Mobile vs. Desktop
When you insert a page to test it, Google will give two scores: one for the mobile version and one for the desktop version.
Initially, the PageSpeed Tool only gave one score, for the Desktop version. But recently, mobile usage has became more and more popular. As of 2018, more than 50% of search engine users search on mobile devices. As Google moved to a mobile first index, it also made sense for them to test mobile versions for speed first.
However, if you have a responsive design, you might think that these versions are mostly identical.
If so, why do they have different scores?
Mobile: When you use the PageSpeed Insights tool, the first result you’ll get is for mobile speed. This means that your website has been tested on a mobile connection, probably with a 4G connection, as it seems to be the most common speed around the US at least.
However, keep in mind that many mobile users around the world still get only 3G signal and, although they have a slower connection speed, they still expect the website to load really fast.
And here’s the problem. It’s not always about your site, it’s more about the connection’s speed. It might seem like your site is slow when, in reality, the connection speed is slow.
Desktop: On desktop, the score is higher because the connection speed is higher. That’s just the thing with light and fiber optics. Unless you live in the UK, of course, and still have cups and string internet.
So the website goes through the same testing, but it’s mostly the connection speed that differs.
That’s why mobile comes first, as mobile devices usually have slower connections. Things might change with 5G but, until then, make sure you focus on improving your site speed for mobile devices.
What exactly is Page Speed?
OK, so we know what the tool does: it gives a score based on how fast it thinks your site is. But what exactly is page speed?
But speed is relative. It depends on so many factors such as the website’s performance, the server’s performance, the particular web page you’re on, the connection type, the user’s internet service provider, the internet package, the device’s processing power, the Browser, what the user is doing at that point, how many apps are running and so on.
However, we can only work with what we can work, which is our website and our server. We don’t really have control over the rest.
That’s why Google PageSpeed Insights wasn’t so good in the past. It didn’t quite give you information about how fast your website is actually loading. Just scores.
And that’s why this new version is just so good. It tells you everything you need to know about actual loading speed while also keeping the good stuff from the old version.
There are, of course, different points of interest in the loading time. For example, you may want to run some scripts towards the end because they don’t need to be used initially.
They might take a lot to finish loading, so the total loading time could be higher. But if the site is usable until then, it isn’t such a big problem.
For example, let’s say you want to run an exit intent pop-up script. That script takes a hypothetical 5-10 seconds to load. However, you want to show it to the user only after about 20-30 seconds.
If you start running your script immediately, you might postpone loading other important elements, such as the first thing the user should see: the above the fold content. This would be very bad, especially since you’re not going to use that script until about 20-30 seconds in the future.
So you can postpone loading the script after everything else that is vital loads in order to give the user a better experience.
However, if you have a script that makes the menu work or something vital to the usability of the website, you might not want to load it towards the end. This would ruin the experience as the user would not be able to access that function before everything else is loaded.
Does Page Speed Affect SEO? Is 100/100 Insights Score Essential?
The simple answer is that page speed does affect SEO. Page speed is a direct ranking factor, a fact known even better since Google’s Algorithm Speed Update. However, speed can also affect rankings indirectly, by increasing the bounce rate and reducing dwell time.
At Google, users come first. Studies by Google show that average 3G loading speed is very slow. They also show that users leave the site after about 3 seconds. This means that their experience is bad and Google doesn’t like ranking sites which provide bad user experience.
What you must remember is that speed is measured in seconds, not in points from 0 to 100. While PageSpeed Insights is a tool that helps you improve speed, the score there doesn’t necessarily mean anything in the real world.
There are also disadvantages, of course. You’re limited from every direction, although things are getting better and better every day. Also, your site’s design has to suffer and will pretty much look like any other site that uses AMP. Bummer.
The URL isn’t yours either, because Google loads a cached version of your site, on their URLs. However, Google developers have promised to bring native URLs into AMP.
On WordPress and other CMS, you can add AMP to your website through a plugin. For custom websites, you’ll need to get in touch with your developer and give them this link.
Improving your site speed is important for better search rankings. PageSpeed Insights provides a set of best practices and possible improvements, prioritized by their impact on your site’s speed.
While the score itself shouldn’t concern you too much, it’s a good idea to try and get it at least over 50. However, focus on load time, which is measured in seconds. A good website should load in about 3 seconds. A really, really fast one should load in about 1.
Having a good server, compressing images and keeping things clean and simple in your code will benefit you the most when it comes to website speed. While smaller sites will benefit most from a shared server, if you are a larger business, hosting your site on a custom tower servers would be a recommended choice. Allowing the businesses to edit and maintain their site, a private server would offer flexibility and reliability when they need it most.
What’s your PageSpeed Insights Score? Have you seen better rankings after improving the loading speed of your website? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!