Google Pagespeed – What you are missing

Jul. 27, 2015  |    |  SEO,Tech

Tags: , ,

So, you are an SEO or webmaster and have heard all the fuss about Google making Pagespeed a more important and an integral part of its ranking algorithm. Users want faster and lighter sites- that’s UX for you; and if faster sites mean a better on page experience, then the higher speed must also equal better ranking. With this, conversion is also a given. It has over and over again been shown that a quick loading page and conversion go hand in hand.

Back in 2010, at the PubCon, Matt Cutts said that there was strong lobbying in Google to get the company to introduce a new ranking factor into the algorithm. The new ranking factor has to do with how fast a site or page loads. Cutts explained that Google’s co-founders wanted browsing to be real fast, as though you are flipping through a magazine – pretty much what we had aimed for when building this site.

So, we can conclude that some of the reasons for optimizing your site speed are:

  • To improve SEO
  • To improve user experience
  • To increase conversions

So, more and more people are taking a stance on improving their site speed, which in today’s mobile society is great. But the question is whether they are doing it in the right way. Are they looking at the right metrics?

 

Pagegrading

 

There are three very popular grading tools – GTMetrix, Pingdom and Google Pagespeed Insights, and they all grade a site from 1-100.

Page Speed Insights is widely used among SEOs and designers, mainly for its ease of use, but also, of course, because it seemingly shows what “Google values”.

Since its inception in 2010 I have heard questions such as:

  • Our competitor has a Google Pagespeed score of 87, and we are at 79. How do we beat them?
  • Our competitor has a Google Pagespeed score of 90. We are at 77, and yet our site seems to be much quicker. What gives?

This is where people deceive themselves. Let’s take a look at Google’s own description of GPI:

“… analyzes the content of a web page, and then generates suggestions to make that page faster. Reducing page load times can reduce bounce rates and increase conversion rates. It runs a number of diagnostic tests against a web page, and analyzes the page’s performance on a number of ‘rules’ that are known to speed up page load time. The rules are based on general principles of web page performance, including resource caching, data upload and download size, and client-server round-trip times. They examine factors such as web server configuration, JavaScript and CSS code, image file properties, and so on. For each rule, PageSpeed gives a general score, using a simple red-yellow-green grading scheme, then suggests specific techniques for correctly implementing each rule.”

Note the following passages and operative words:

“generate suggestions”

“that are known to speed up”

“then suggests specific”

 

About Google Pagespeed suggestions

 

Suggestions given in GPI are not unquestionable, absolute or necessarily true. You have to keep this in mind when optimizing your GPI score:

GPI gives a score mainly based on the coding quality of your site. If your score is 75 (%) it is implied by Google that your site may become one third quicker. GPI only gives you suggestions on what could possibly make your site quicker.

It’s practical to think – “I have a high page grade score, so I am doing well”, but rather, Big G is giving you hints on how to improve. The grades and recommendations can be helpful in providing a guideline for best practices, and spotting any red flags or bottlenecks in your site. But the fact is, a higher grade does not equal a faster page load time. I’ve seen plenty of sites with high grades, but slow speeds, and I have also seen many cases where implementing the changes slowed the site down.

Fact is, it’s a waste of time to chase a perfect grade, and the bottom line is – the performance grade of your site does not matter. The only metric that matters is the actual load time of your page.

 

GPI Drawbacks

 

GPI is more of a sledgehammer for testing church clocks than a fine electronics screwdriver for repairing a watch. Let me show you why, by commenting on these commonly seen GPI optimization suggestions, which, in the big scope of things, are ridiculous if interpreted wrongly:
Google Pagespeed Optimization

 

This suggests you should optimize your images to save 520bytes (that’s 0.5 KILOBYTES folks!) on an image. In comparison searchengineland.com “weighs” 2,69mb, and that’s 2690000 bytes.

 

So, clearly there are probably more and better tips to give a website owner to help him make his site quicker.
Yet, another example of the flaws of pagegrading can be seen in this example from Pingdom. Both Pingdom and GTMetrix are great if used correctly, but if you use their pagegrading scores you pretty much have the same issues:
So, this site has a pagegrade score of 96, but loads in 60 seconds.

And here are examples from GTMetrix and Pingdom:

 

GTmetrics speed results

 

Pingdom Speed Results

 

 

Summary

 

So, is the pagegrade score indicative of the site’s speed? No, it’s not. The timing, however, is.

True, speed is imperative when it comes to SEO and online marketing. But then, so is properly analyzing your site. So, while a high pagegrade score may mean you are doing something right, it’s really not something you should focus on. Take it with a pinch of salt and focus on clocking your site’s loading time. Focus on shaving off those tenths of seconds because in the end they sure do add up…