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In this age of instant gratification, most people are accustomed to getting what they want at lightning-fast speeds – and that includes the experience of visiting web pages online.
As a business owner, you should know that site speed is more important than ever for achieving a high rank in the Google SERPs, as well as for providing a quality user experience. In fact, a study from Brian Dean at Backlinko found that page load speed is not only an official ranking signal in Google, but is strongly correlated to actual rankings.
These days, there are a lot of different tools for measuring your overall site performance – such as GTmetrix and Pingdom – but one of the best choices is simply the Google PageSpeed Tool called PageSpeed Insights. Like with Google Analytics and Google Search Console, this tool gives you data straight from the most important source.
In this post, we’re going to look at how PageSpeed Insights works and how to leverage it for your business’s success online.
What is the Google PageSpeed Tool?
PageSpeed Insights (PSI) is a free tool that analyzes your website’s performance on desktop and mobile devices. Ultimately, the tool gives you a performance score and recommends ways you can optimise your site speed.
While there’s a lot of technical information you can dig into, the performance score on a scale from 0 to 100 gives you a general idea of how well your site is performing. Here’s how the scores break down:
- 90 and above is fast
- 50 to 90 is moderate
- Below 50 is slow
So, what can you do with this information? Let’s take a look at how the tool actually works!
How to Use Google PageSpeed Tool
After entering your website’s URL at the top of the PSI page and hitting the “Analyze” button, a full page of results will appear, broken down into mobile and desktop.
In addition to the performance score, you’ll find three sections:
- Opportunities. Suggestions for improving your page speed.
Diagnostics. Additional information on how pages adheres to best practices for web development.
Passed Audits. Successful audits that have been passed by the page.
Generally speaking, the best thing you can do is focus on the “Opportunities” section of the page. These are the suggestions you can follow to help you improve your page’s performance metrics.
In this website example, we see that two of the biggest issues are related to images. First, there’s a suggestion to use next-gen formats for images that could save 4.95 seconds of load time. Second, the site has many images that could be resized to shave off an additional 3 seconds.
Every single opportunity listed includes an estimated savings of time if the changes are implemented. You can click the arrow next to each opportunity for a dropdown with more information about how to implement the suggestion.
Note that the slowest items are labeled with a red warning triangle – these are the ones causing the greatest slowdowns in loading, so it makes sense to focus your efforts on fixing them first.
Common Changes to Improve Page Speed
Of course, just seeing opportunities doesn’t automatically mean you know what to do with them. Most business owners aren’t professional web developers – but the good news is, a lot of these issues come up a lot and have fairly simple solutions.
Here are some of the most common reasons a site is loading slow, and what to do about them.
Server Response Time
If Google warns you about your site’s server response time, it’s taking Google longer than 200 milliseconds to load HTML from the server.
There’s a lot of technical reasons why this could be occurring, but one of the most common solutions is simply to upgrade to a higher quality web host. If you’re using a fairly inexpensive shared hosting service, this could be the culprit.
A few other possibilities include consolidating code and improving web server configuration.
Leverage Browser Caching
Another issue affecting page speed is leverage browser caching. The whole idea behind caching is to save website data – images, code, and so on – in your users’ web browsers so it doesn’t take as much time to load pages in the future.
You can set your own server-side rules on browser caching, with a focus on how long certain elements remain in the cache before they have to be reloaded. So, if you’re seeing a leverage browser caching warning for your website, that means Google is seeing at least one of these two issues:
- You don’t have any caching rules established
- The expiry times are too low
If you run a WordPress website, there are some great caching plugins that help you manage your browser caching, such as W3 Total Cache and WP Rocket.
Otherwise, you may have to hop into the CPanel of your web host and make some changes to the .htaccess file. You can learn more about leverage browser caching here.
Landing Page Redirects
Yes, 301 redirects are a good thing – when the alternative is a dead link. But be careful about using a lot of redirects, because it takes extra time whenever the browser has to go through additional HTTP requests, DNS lookups, and other processes.
The best way to fix this problem is to avoid using redirects except when absolutely necessary. In those cases, make sure you’re using the proper ones:
- 301 for permanent redirects
- 302 for temporary redirects
In any case, you should make it a habit to check the Google PageSpeed tool regularly to make sure everything is running smoothly. You should also check it after you’ve made changes or improvements to your website in order to validate that they worked.
Google PageSpeed Tool Wrap-up
In the end, page speed is only one factor in Google ranking and user experience – but it’s still an important one! So, how do you make sure to have the fastest possible speed?
Well, improving site speed doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution – every website truly is different. Your site will have a unique web host, WordPress theme, set of images, and site structure compared to the next site. By checking the Opportunities in the Google PageSpeed Tool, you’ll figure out the changes you need to make, but actually improving your site is up to you.
Fortunately, you can partner with a dedicated SEO agency to do the heavy lifting for you! At Common Ground, we have developers and SEO specialists with years of experience handling issues like page speed and technical SEO.
Don’t spend your valuable time working on site performance when there are experts who can get it done for you better and faster. Get in touch with us today to find out more about how our SEO team can help you!