Site Speed Optimization: Testing & Measuring
The primary purpose of optimizing the speed of your site is not getting better grades from Google. No. It is to improve the experience of visitors of your website, to accomplish the purpose of your business.
— Phil Chavanne, Snr SEO Consultant
In this video, we give business owners tips on how to test properly the speed at which their home page loads. Testing is done in several browsers to understand your visitors’ visual experience, then in PageSpeed Insights, the diagnostic tool used by Google to measure and improve the speed indicators called “Core Web Vitals”.
Google and Lighthouse have developed the Core Web Vitals as speed optimization benchmarks for mobile websites. Passing the Core Web Vitals is both an achievement and a necessity for business: Big G is pressing web designers and business owners to speed up their mobile sites to improve user experience (“UX”) and “Customer Experience” (“CX”).
The speed test tool created for this purpose is called PageSpeed Insights: beyond its scoring function, which operates in a simulated environment — testing your site from one location on a simulated device to give you a mobile and a desktop score — PageSpeed Insights also serves as a monitoring system, collecting “field data” (i.e. real-world data) speed data through for , i.e. how your site guide source of recommendations
Goog has made increasingly clear over the past 3 years that the experience offered by a website to its mobile users ought to be a core focus of businesses, and that obtaining a passing grade on the Core Web Vitals (in order words, making a site really speedy) would be a ranking factor going forward. Better speed, better ranks.
Google’s position is reasonable in more than one way. Big G does not emphasize SEO at all… but points to user experience. Many studies have shown the negative effects of a slow site on its visitor traffic:
- Potential visitors are turned away before they even visit
- Potential buyers abandon their shopping cart before completing their transaction
- Visitors form a negative opinion of a company (frustration, impatience)
- Bounce rates (single-page visits/multi-page visits) reach high levels, penalizing the Google ranking of a site
- Visits become shallow (few pageviews): visitors don’t see enough information to form a bond with the business
Mountain View suggests business owners to take a good look at their website and to work to help visitors accomplish quickly the purpose of their visit. (We discussed this point in a blog post about mobile-optimized sites)
In other words, to quote Goog: “Making a mobile site requires prioritization. Start by working out what the most important and common tasks are for your customers on mobile.”
We encourage all local businesses to test their website speed at https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/, or to use the free Core Web Vitals testing tool we have integrated on this website: https://edenads.com/what-we-do/#searchengine to guide you through your site speed optimization.
Note about testing
It is important that you clear your browser history and cookies before you test, because if you have been on your site before, it is likely your browser will have retained some of it in memory — especially Google Chrome, which has a very resilient caching system, because Google likes to track your every move. Beside this characteristic of Google Chrome, browsers keep data in cache to speed up access to the websites you visit. To observe the real experience, clean up your history and cookies.
SUGGESTIONS TO FOCUS ON WHEN OPTIMIZING
Some of the most common issues that prevent a website from getting good results in the Core Web Vitals can be fixed even before you start testing, just as a matter of a webmaster’s best practices:
- Image compression: Use next-gen (webp) format, and compressed JPEG. We use Imagify as our plugin of choice to achieve best compression/resolution ratio. But we first compress in Photoshop.
- CSS: Keep your CSS efficient. PageSpeed Insights will flag unused CSS. Planning CSS at the time of design is key to performance. Unplanned, off-the-cuff design tend to make things complicated for coders and call for additional, heavier CSS.
- Cache plugins: You need a very strong cache plugin. Most do Gzip compression, CSS and JS minification, some use a CDN (which can be tricky if your hosting service also uses a CDN). We have tried multiple plugins, none of them is perfect, but we found out that some premium plugins are worth the money. Free won’t carry your site the distance.
- Server redirection: Ensure your site is under HTTPS, and select a non-www canonical URL. Server redirection will cost your a precious 1+ second.
- Web hosting service: From experience, a good Linux cpanel-based hosting is in most cases faster than a Managed WordPress server. Not straight out-the-box, but with tweaks, yes.
- Server and CDN: Hook up your site to a CDN (content distribution network), don’t force user queries to hop all the way to your server. You need cache memory, a lot of it.
- Design for mobile first: Google prioritizes Core Web Vitals for mobile and Lighthouse emulates smartphone speed and networks to gets a CWV mobile score. Design for mobile to simplify your thinking. Then, as needed, add stuff for desktop. You’ll achieve better performance this way.
- WordPress themes: Avoid code-bloated themes. Find a good case study, maybe a couple, on theme speeds. Select a theme that is speedy, i.e. a theme with minimal bloat.
Seek performance improvement WHILE you build the site, don’t just test it after you build it. Test your performance WHILE you build it. Speed is just a benchmark, not the prize. The prize is conversions. Conversion marketing uses speed as a step-to in the quest for best CRO and revenue generation, not an end-goal.
Slow site? Failing the Core Web Vitals?
If your site is slow, or fails the Core Web Vitals test, take advantage of our complimentary consultation. We offer a site speed optimization service with a goal of reaching scores of 90/100+ for both mobile and desktop.
Give us a call at (813) 940-5699.