Google Page Speed is thought of by many as the de-facto tool to test your website with. You pop your website address in, wait ten seconds and get given your score.
If, God forbid you have a poor score, panic sets in as you assume something is majorly wrong! Google obviously hates you and slowly but surely your friends will likely leave you, family will disown you and you and your website will be left in purgatory…
Dramatic? Yes, but you’d be surprised how many clients and prospective clients we speak to who do share at least some of that sentiment. Wrongly.
I’ll start by clarifying the word ‘pointless’…
Google Page Speed is not truly pointless for everyone. However, if you are not a web developer or didn’t build your website – then it is definitely pointless.
The first clue is in the URL – developers.google.com/speed/ even its URL has the word ‘developers’ in it. The results produced by this tool do not speak in a normal non-nerdy language and the information it provides you means virtually nothing unless you have a firm understanding of scripts, styles and how your website was even built in the first place.
Your Google page speed score is not a reflection of the actual load time…
If you score 40/100 on Mobile it does not mean your website is slow. The score given is not directly linked to the actual speed of your website but is a tool to show you how many things/elements/scripts are loading on your website and the order in which they do.
There is a myth that Google (the search engine part) will punish you for poor scores in this test. Google will judge you on your actual load speed (and a hundred other things), not your Google Page Speed score. It is true that the more the website loads, the slower it may load of course so realistically a 40/100 may not be a lightning fast loading website, but it will not be punished by the score, just the physical load time.
Can we prove that the score is pointless? Why yes, we can.
If you’ve seen the film ‘Training Day’, Denzel Washington makes a very valid point (this film has nothing to do with websites by the way but is a great film!) “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove” and in true Denzel fashion, we are going to prove it to you –
Take a quick look at this basic page we have built to help explain – High Score Webpage
This website is a bare HTML webpage with a bit of text and one compressed image. No fonts, no tracking analytics. Nice and simple. Barely 30 lines of code. It scores 100 for Mobile (left) and 100 for Desktop (right) in Google Page Speed. The perfect website, right?!
Now, take a quick look at this second page we have built – Low Score Webpage
This is the same bare HTML webpage as the first but has a few ‘standard’ additions. It loads a single Google Font (most websites load at least two of these), has Google Analytics script on it to track visitors (most websites have this installed or something similar) has a basic YouTube video embed pasted in (you’ve been told a dozen times that video is the future, right?), a Facebook share button and finally a Twitter Follow button.
This page is far from a modern webpage and is just over 40 lines of code (this article page itself outputs 3000 lines).
Google Page Speed scores this page just 64 for mobile and a near perfect 98 for desktop.
“That’s nuts! Why, why, Why?”
In its simplest form Google page speed looks at everything that is being loaded on a webpage generates a score and advises how that can be improved on. The more that a webpage loads the lower the score. Even loading Googles own fonts and analytics will give you at least a 10-point drop.
So, I repeat what I said earlier “Google Page Speed score is not a score of your websites speed”. The above example webpage takes 0.6 secs to fully load yet scores just 64/100 for mobile. It’s not a score that judges speed, but what is loading and when.
“You’re just rubbish at building websites and trying to hide it!”
Wow, you’re rude! Only kidding.
Our own website scores a healthy 75 for mobile and 92 for desktop. This is not a case of ‘you try harder for your own site’ but simply because our website doesn’t load lots of big images, videos, ads and other that things many other sites do.
If your website score is low, try testing some of the big websites out there –
It’s also worth noting that if you pop those website addresses into Google Page Speed, you may see vastly different results. It seems that the scoring does get changed occasionally, for better and worse. If you are on a shared hosting plan (most people are) you again will definitely see fluctuating results depending on your website servers current load and response.
Ok, I get it. So, what is it actually for?!
It’s a great tool for developers. When we run your website through it, it shows us all the elements, scripts, stylesheets and other bits that the page is loading or ‘calling’. We can analyse this to make sure that firstly we are not loading anything we don’t need to, then make sure it’s loading in the right order. There’s no point in loading something that only shows at the bottom of a page, first, for example.
Every website we build we have one target score – the best we can get. That might be 92, it might be 32. If your website has lots of functionality, plugins, fonts, images, videos etc it won’t get a good score. But that’s ok! So long as we’ve optimised everything as best it can be, you’ll have a website as fast as it can go (not mentioning server speed or caching, but that’s for another day).