This significance has increased dramatically with the rise of mobile internet browsing. Today, 64% of smartphone users expect a page to load in less than four seconds.
Because of this growing expectation of fast page loading, Google has recognized its importance in providing a satisfying user experience.
This has prompted them to use mobile page load speed as a ranking factor within their search algorithm. And with Google rolling out mobile-first indexing last year, put simply, your website will suffer in SEO if your core pages load slowly.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights
There are multiple ways a web page can be analyzed for load speed. Not only are there third-party tools that can be used for free, but Google also provides a range of methods to assist in this process.
This includes Google’s PageSpeed Insights that was recently updated to provide even more information about page load speed performance.
Access Google’s PageSpeed Insights here
(Enter your desired URL – mobile version of a page is analyzed by default)
It’s recommended you start with your conversion-based website URLs – the pages you want to rank in search results that help in converting a sale or service.
Once the page has finished being analyzed you are provided with different segments of information.
They are broken down into the following:
A rating of speed from 0 – 100. This score incorporates data from Lighthouse, described by Google as “an open-source, automated tool for improving the quality of web pages.”
Lighthouse crawls the URL in question and provides a range of insights and optimizations based on different page elements. More information on this is provided below in the Lab Data section.
This speed score can be very deceptive, however. There are other factors Google uses in determining this overall rating, which is why using other testing applications is vital.
I provide an example of this based on my own website towards the end of the article.
Field Data provides information on the average loading speed of the web page over the last 30 days.
Information from the Chrome User Experience report is incorporated into this data, including key user experience metrics which have been aggregated from real-world browsing habits.
This allows you to compare your page speed against the data Google has collected to give you a better understanding of how you measure up to other websites.
As mentioned above, you can see here how Lighthouse parses different elements of your page and how long they have taken.
- First Contentful Paint– Time in which some text or imagery appears
- First Meaningful Paint– Time in which the main page content has loaded
- Speed Index– How quickly the contents of a page are visibly populated
- First CPU Idle – The time it takes for most buttons and other UI elements to be interactive
- Time to Interactive – A combination of the above such as First Contentful Paint and first CPU Idle
Perhaps the most critical segment, as it contains the opportunities identified in optimizing page load speed.
Clicking each listed opportunity provides greater detail on both what it means, and where it was found on the page.
Many of these will relate to aspects of web development. If you don’t have the necessary understanding of web development to investigate them further, make note of them before arranging a time to meet with your web developer to discuss prioritization.
A range of other web performance elements that can impact overall page load speeds. Like Opportunities, you can click on each section for more detailed information.
What your page has passed based on Google’s assessment. You can see what has passed on one of your pages to get a better understanding if the same element has failed on another.
Third Party Page Load Review
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a comprehensive tool, but as stated previously, you should always compare data using a third-party application.
A few popular ones include:
These tools are very useful as they provide further breakdowns in many ways including:
- The size of your page elements
- The load order of your page elements
- Further optimizations to double check against
Using GTmetrix as an example, you can simulate mobile performance and location by signing up with a free account.
The importance of using a tool like this is that you can really get a better understanding of each aspect of your page load speed. Again, GTmetrix provides a waterfall chart of page load requests.
Why is it important to use a third-party page load speed analysis tool?
While Google PageSpeed Insights is a very useful metric, the overall speed score often reflects the number of recommendations that are outstanding – even if resolving them would have the smallest impact on overall page speed.
For example, at Vuly Play, our page for trampoline products and its load speed is crucial for online conversions.
We implemented a large range of optimizations ensuring our page www.vulyplay.com/en-AU/trampolines was as fast as possible.
This is what is presented in Google PageSpeed Insights:
This is due to a few image recommendations that we chose not to implement as it would hamper user experience.
Despite this, when using Pingdom we saw a favorable page load speed of 1.9 seconds:
By all means, use Google PageSpeed Insights, but always check using multiple resources when reviewing your page load speeds.
A Quick Sitewide Speed Snapshot
Finally, if you have Google Analytics tracking installed, you can download an overview of your avg. page load times.
Sometimes overlooked, the Site Speed section not only provides an overview but also individual page timings.
This data is based on the same principles as PageSpeed Insights but gives the functionality of:
- Grabbing a large range of pages in one report
- Defining a particular time period
Don’t Snooze on Page Load Speeds
Hopefully, this article has helped you start thinking about page load speeds for your website.
It’s something that is fundamental to future SEO successful and without review, you will suffer in search rankings.
Even better, however, is this process will not only help your website SEO but also move towards providing a better user experience (and more conversions for your business!).
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- Understand Google’s Page Speed Insights or Suffer in SEO - March 8, 2019