Congratulations on building a brand new website for your company! After spending days on weeks laboring over the design and making countless edits, you’ve finally made your website.
But now you have a problem.
Your new, appealing website doesn’t load as quickly as it should.
If you want your website to be good from an SEO point of view as well as have the ability to build a better conversion rate, the speed of your site is a crucial factor.
If your website isn’t fast, people will “bounce” away, hindering your chances of ranking on search engines.
Although there are tools to check your website’s speed, it’s usually hard to figure out what is making your website run slow.
It could be something as simple as large images or page elements or something that requires a bit more effort like poorly written code.
You need to diagnose and catch these issues early or Google will overlook your website, and that’s never a good sign.
If you check Google’s PageSpeed Insights and run your website through it to find a 100% score, that means your site is fast and Google will give preferential treatment to your site.
Basically, the quicker the site loads, the lower the bounce rate. Having a fast website will give you a better chance at ranking on Google.
Fortunately, Google provides a free tool that you can use to figure out what needs to be fixed on your website.
But unfortunately, they don’t tell you how to get your score to 100%.
You have nothing to worry about though. This article will act as your guide to score a perfect 100% on Google’s PageSpeed Insights and why doing that is very important.
What is Google PageSpeed Insights?
It’s one of Google’s tools that measures and improves your website’s performance on mobile and desktop devices.
With PageSpeed Insights, you can see the overall performance score of your page.
The score is determined by Lighthouse, which is an open-source tool by Google’s team. Lighthouse runs various audits, including the performance one.
After they run the performance audit and assess several metrics, the Lighthouse team will determine the Performance score — the same score Google PageSpeed provides.
The Google PageSpeed score is based on lab data, which means that Google PageSpeed Insights collects performance data in a controlled environment with the simulation being done with the predefined device and network settings.
Since it’s based on predefined conditions like the Internet connection, the PageSpeed score doesn’t reflect real user experience.
This is why the PageSpeed Insights tool provides Field data as well. Real field data is based on the cumulative data that Google Chrome collects from its users and makes available in the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX).
This data is considered highly valuable as it captures actual user experience, which is why this data can slightly differ from the lab data and might not always be available.
Field Data that’s stored in the CrUX has all three Core Web Vitals – Largest Contentful Paint (loading performance), First Input Delay (interactivity), Cumulative Layout Shift (visual stability).
It’s good to know that the Lab data has only the Largest Contentful Paint and Cumulative Layout Shift scores. The First Input Delay metric cannot be measured without real user interaction, which is why the performance score considers the Total Blocking Time metric, used as a proxy.
Finally, field data is considered valuable because it’s how Google assesses the SEO ranking.
Why is Google PageSpeed Important?
Google PageSpeed is very important as it can affect SEO from two different standpoints: mobile speed and user experience.
Mobile performance and user experience are both related to specific ranking factors.
Back in July 2018, Google rolled out the Speed Update, which made mobile page speed a direct ranking factor for Google Search and Ads.
Fast-forward to June 2021 and the Page Experience signal will roll out as an SEO ranking factor. This new ranking factor gauges the user experience of a page and includes several signals like mobile-friendliness, HTTPS security, intrusive interstitial guidelines, safe-browsing, and Core Web Vitals metrics as already mentioned.
On one side of the coin, you have mobile page speed, which has been a ranking factor for more than two years, and on the flip side, the three Core Web Vitals focus on how users interact with the page and account for more than half of the overall PageSpeed score weight. This means they’re very relevant in determining the PageSpeed Insights score.
Although Google PageSpeed score is not a ranking factor, you still need to take care of the Core Web Vitals metrics. As previously mentioned, they are part of the new Page Experience ranking signals and can affect your organic visibility.
How to Diagnose Your Desktop and Mobile Site
Now that you understand how slow websites ruin conversion rates, it’s time to figure out what are the underlying issues of your website.
It’s common for most sites to run slowly because of large images that take up too much space. However, that’s not always the case.
If you want to reach a 100% score on the PageSpeed Insights tool, you need to figure out what exactly is causing your website to slow down.
To diagnose your desktop and mobile site, you first need to open up the PageSpeed Insights tool and type in your website URL and click “Analyze” to run a quick test on your site.
The completed report will tell you everything about your site and what might be holding its performance back.
If you take a look at the items that are optimized and perfected, you’ll notice how there are only some items on this list compared to the “Possible Optimizations” list:
This information lets you know that the items on the “Possible Optimizations” list are not as impactful as the ones that are already optimized.
But if you want that perfect 100% score, you need to take care of every element on the PageSpeed Insights tool.
You can start with the top priority items and then work on your mobile site separately.
The PageSpeed Insights tool also has a mobile site tester but Google released an updated, more accurate version of this.
If you want to see how your site performs, you can go to Test My Site and input your website URL. After that, Google will take some time to run the report, but ultimately, you will get a detailed look at how your mobile site performs compared to the industry standards.
It will even show you how many visitors you might lose due to a lower page speed.
If the recommended load time is three seconds or less and your mobile site loads in four seconds, that means your speed isn’t on par with the industry standards and you stand to lose at least 10% of your visitors solely due to poor speeds.
If you scroll down further, Google will show you possible fixes for your website that you can implement.
Google says that with just a few fixes, you can reduce your load times by around three seconds. This means you could, potentially, get your website to load within one second!
That’s an amazing feat. Even if this saves you 10% of your visitors, it’s still worth it.
Run your website through this mobile site test to get data on what fixes you need for your website.
How Google Uses PageSpeed Insights
Since PageSpeed Insights is managed and operated by the world’s largest and most popular search engine, you could say that your score plays an important role in your SERP rankings.
The truth is Google does use PageSpeed Insights to determine rankings but not that’s not all. There’s no doubt that site speed is a ranking factor, and your performance test score can provide you with a good idea of where you stand on that front.
However, Google takes more than just the PageSpeed score into consideration – Getting 100/100 doesn’t guarantee you a top spot on SERPs.
Having said that, you can still achieve better PageSpeed Insights results when you strive to improve your SEO. For example, mobile page speed. Mobile page speed has been a ranking factor for Google since 2018, so you’ll see that your performance test gives your data for both the desktop and mobile versions.
More than 73% of mobile internet users claim they have come across sites that take too long to load, which means you need to reduce the loading time if you want to retain visitors. This makes the information in the Google PageSpeed Insights Mobile tab even more valuable. You can gain a competitive edge by just decreasing loading times on mobiles and other devices.
What’s a Good Google PageSpeed Score?
If you want to know what Google PageSpeed score you should aim for, know that the good scores start from 90, and the score is dividing into three categories:
Good: Score of 90 or above (In the Green zone)
Requires improvements: Score of 50 to 90 (In the Orange zone)
Poor: Score is below 50 (In the Red zone)
The Google PageSpeed score contains six metrics:
- First Contentful Paint
- Largest Contentful Paint (Core Web Vitals metric)
- Speed Index
- Cumulative Layout Shift (Core Web Vitals metric)
- Time to Interactive
- Total Blocking Time.
It’s important to remember that each metric carries a different weight, and there are metrics that are more important in determining your overall score. If you improve some of them, it will have a more significant impact on your score than others.
Here’s how the weight is calculated:
The Largest Contentful Paint and Total Blocking Time make the biggest difference amongst the metrics as they both account for 25% of the overall score.
If your Largest Contentful Paint or Total Blocking Time isn’t up to the mark, it’s very likely that your loading time will be high. This is because these metrics relate to the loading performance and interactivity of the page.
By improving these two metrics, your loading time will decrease but how much it will decrease depends on the initial score.
On the contrary, improving your Cumulative Layout Shift (which accounts for 5%) will only help you reach the Core Web Vitals threshold and improve the user experience.
This means you could have the worst Cumulative Layout Shift ever and still have the fastest loading time. This is possible because the Cumulative Layout Shift doesn’t have any relation with your website’s speed – it only deals with delivering a good user experience.
Ways to Improve Page Speed
Now that you know more about PageSpeed Insights and what a good score is, you can start improving your site’s performance:
Remove Render-Blocking Resources
One of the common recommendations from Google PageSpeed Insights is to get rid of render-blocking resources.
There are two solutions to this, according to Google.
Usually, CSS files are larger than they need to be, and this is to make them easier for people to read. They might contain various carriage returns and spaces that aren’t required for computers to understand the contents.
To minify CSS, you have to condense your files by eliminating unnecessary characters, spaces, and duplications. The reason why Google recommends this practice is by decreasing CSS file sizes – you can essentially improve loading speeds.
Keep Transfer Sizes Small and Request Counts Low
Simply put, the more requests browsers need to make to load the pages, and the larger the resources the server returns in response, the longer the website takes to load. This is why Google recommends that you reduce the number of required requests and minimize the size of your resources.
There is no right or wrong number of requests or a maximum size to keep in mind. Google just recommends that you set those standards yourself by creating a performance budget. This can be a set of goals that are related to aspects like:
- Maximum image sizes
- Number of web fonts used
- Number of external resources you call to
- Size of scripts and frameworks
When you create a performance budget, you can give yourself a set of standards to be accountable for. If you go over budget, you can discuss whether to eliminate or optimize resources in order to get back to the predetermined guidelines.
Remove Unused CSS
Any code that’s in your stylesheet is content that needs to be loaded for your page to be visible to users. If there’s CSS on your site that isn’t useful, you’re putting an unnecessary drain on your performance.
The solution here is basically the same as eliminating render-blocking CSS. You can inline or defer styles in any way that makes the most sense for your web pages. Additionally, you can also use a tool like Chrome DevTools to find unused CSS that should be optimized.
Most professionals would tell you to have Google PageSpeed Insights as a staple in your webmaster toolbox. However, you don’t need to fixate on your score and obsess day and night whether you’ll achieve that perfect 100/100 score.
To be honest, it’s not the best use of your time and you could be shying away from other important tasks that could give you more significant benefits.
Since this tool is made by Google, all the UX metrics are based on the site’s performance on the Chrome UX report on desktop and mobile.
When you run the test on your website, you will receive lab data that relates to performance issues and field data that gives real-time results that are taken from the experience of the visitors.
Google PageSpeed Insights favors small to mid-size businesses the most but it can also be useful for those solo website owners who value simplicity and straightforwardness.
Curious tech enthusiast and editor of JoeTechReviews.com