Business

How to Use Google PageSpeed Insights

In order to take control of your website, you need to workout its performance vis a vis loading times. One such tool, to help you get the job done, is Google PageSpeed Insights.

So you’ve bought yourself a WordPress theme, uploaded it to your WP installation on your server, edited the options page, activated the SEO, sharing and cache plugins, and finally you have published your content. Your site is live, and you can at last sit back and wait for the readers to flock in.

Hold on, there maybe some other aspects you should consider first…

Maintaining Your Site

Let’s face it: the internet has become overcrowded. Irrespective of the genre or nature of the site you are running, you cannot expect to be popular and successful if you fail to maintain it in good health, and only focus on its promotion and growth.

Of course, it is always a good idea to get traffic by means of organic and viral promotion, be it via Facebook or YouTube or Tumblr, but the relevance of a good search engine rank cannot be ignored either. Anyone launching a new site knows that a website optimized for search engines always performs better than one that is not.

However, SEO is not the silver bullet. What matters is how you retain those visitors that you have successfully earned via search engines or social media. And when it comes to retaining your visitors (or converting them into customers), there are many things that need to be kept in mind. One such factor is the loading time of your website.

Simply put, if your website fails to load quickly, you will lose traffic.

Web users are known to have zero patience, after all. If users are leaving your web site on a frequent basis, your website’s conversion rate will give you nightmares and may even affect your search engine rank in the long run!

However, how do you boost website loading times? Of course, there are factors such as a good web host and caching that can go a long way in making your life easier, but in order to actually take control of your website, you need to figure out its performance vis a vis loading times. One such tool, to help you get the job done, is Google PageSpeed Insights.

I am assuming that you already know how to use the straightforward PageSpeed app, and as such, will talk about how you should as a non-developer interpret the results, or Insights as Google calls them, in order to optimize your website.

If, on the other hand, you need to get more in-depth information about PageSpeed, the official docs are always a great place to start with.

What Do PageSpeed Insights Mean?

PageSpeed Insights basically analyzes your website’s performance and offers optimization tips. However, unlike the common misconceptions surrounding it, PageSpeed Insights looks at only the front-end performance of your website. So factors like load handling and application performance are not in the picture here.

It assesses your websites front-end performance on a scale of 0 to 100, with 85 being its version of A+.

Obviously, if you are looking at the network-independent aspects, such as images, JavaScript, and CSS, PageSpeed Insights can be your best friend.

Fixing Issues? Wait!

So, you checked your website using the PageSpeed app or the browser extension, and the Insights put forth suggest you take measures to fix the errors to get that coveted score of 85 or above. Right?

Pretty good; though everything is not quite what it seems. While PageSpeed Insights will tell you what needs to be fixed and how you can fix it, some of the suggestions are not always worth the effort. Here are two suggestive examples that prove that having a bad PageSpeed result does not really mean your website is slow.

  1. Content Delivery Networks
    As strange as it might sound, using a good CDN can actually decrease your PageSpeed score. In some cases anyway. The reason for that is that certain CDN services rely on JavaScript to properly serve your website, and that very bit of JS code can make PageSpeed Insights penalize your website’s score. So does that mean CDNs should be avoided? Of course not! A CDN is a key aspect to speeding up your website.
  2. HTML Minification
    Most of the time, web developers are recommended by PageSpeed Insights to minify their HTML. While this might be a good practice, it is again not going to affect your website’s score manifolds. See, the key is to minify CSS and JavaScript. That can boost website loading times. Minification of HTML will improve your PageSpeed score, but not necessarily speed up your website.

How To *Actually* Optimize Your Website?

However, PageSpeed Insights can still be helpful in analyzing the performance of your site. Here are some things you should consider when optimizing your website:

Use an app such as GTmetrix or Pingdom to get a bigger picture of your website’s pros and cons. Benchmarking is always a good idea when optimizing or studying the performance of anything, including website speed.

Therefore, the key areas I recommend you focus on when optimizing your site are:

    1. Once again, minify JS and CSS, if you haven’t done that already.
    2. Remove query strings from static resources, if possible.
    3. Optimize your images, and possibly use lazy loading for image content.
    4. Enable Gzip compression for your website. There are a lot of plugins as well as .htaccess tweaks to help you get that done.

Use a good web host, caching plugin and if possible, a CDN too.

Conclusion

Technically speaking, Google does not use the PageSpeed Insights tool to determine search engine ranking (but may do in the future). However, the folks over at Kissmetrics have a detailed article about the importance of loading times. Nearly 50% of web users would abandon a website if it does not load within three seconds. Thus, even though site speed is not the biggest metric that can affect your overall SEO, it can certainly affect your conversions.

Whilst it goes without saying that you should take your PageSpeed Insights with a grain of salt, you shouldn’t outright neglect them either. You can use PageSpeed Insights as a starting point to assess the front-end performance of your web page, and then focus on overall optimization.

PageSpeed Insights can serve as one of the many indicators of your website’s performance. Do not fret too much over getting a score of 85 and beyond. Instead, try to be realistic with your optimization by using PageSpeed Insights in conjunction with tools such as GTmetrix and Pingdom, and thereby improve the overall loading times for your website.


About the Author Sufyan bin Uzayr

Sufyan writes about web design and development, Content Management Systems, open source, and everything else in between. He blogs at Code Carbon, and you can find him on Facebook and Google+.