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I. The Preface

I t’s easy to become obsessed with your Google Pagespeed Insights score. VERY easy. Everyone wants to know what the secrets of achieving a 100/100 score are.

Let me preface this entire post by saying achieving a 100/100 score is not a good ideal. And why not you might ask? The main reason is that some of the things you need to do to hit the magic 100/100 on WordPress websites are generally not a good idea. For instance, render blocking Javascript is generally the thing that trips up most people when it comes to WordPress and their Pagespeed score. While it’s possible to fix this, that’s generally not a super idea. If it was, I’m pretty sure the core WordPress dev team would have configured it that way out of the box.

“When Google is visiting your site, it does not care or know about the performance grade, only the loading time. Pagespeed Grade isn’t a reflection of your load time.”

II. How important is your Google Pagespeed score?

You should take your Google’s tool with a large pinch of salt because your Pagespeed isn’t a reflection of your load time. Your page load time is far more important. When Google is visiting your site, it does not care or know about the performance grade, only the loading time. Pagespeed is far more nuanced and incorporates many others factors that do influence the speed at which your website will load, but aren’t at all related to load time.

Websites that can take 6-7 seconds to load but have a Pagespeed score of 80-90+/100. We all know getting a site to load between 3-4 seconds is the barrier to which people will bounce from the website if it has not loaded by then.

Here are 3 websites all with similar load times, but with vastly differing PageSpeed scores:

Between these 3 sites, the loading time ranges from 465 ms – 596ms but the PageSpeed scores range from 58 – 91. And the below site has a really good PageSpeed score but is slower than all 3 above:

So you can see from these examples that the Google PageSpeed grade is not an indicator of speed. So what happens if you try to do everything PageSpeed asks for? We’re probably going to break our client’s site site. We’ve minified every single js file into a single js file that gets called right at the bottom of the page. From experience, I’d say there’s a >75% chance that something is broken on our demo site right now as a result. This will most likely be a js file that doesn’t like the way it has been minified by Autoptimize, or simply it’s been minified in the wrong order.

Things we can control in order to ensure a fast loading website are to make sure their website is hosted on a fast web host like WP Engine, we have used an Image compression plugin on all the images, we size images dimensions to match their use container as close as possible, and adding a CDN service for images. 

III. So how do you accurately measure page load time speed?

To measure overall load time. We use Pingdom’s Website speed test serviceYou should run the test several times to get an average loading time since it will not be identical every time. The speed at which your site loads is really the only number that matters. When Google is visiting your site, it does not care or know about the performance grade, only the loading time.

IV. Why Should I Even Use Google Page Speed Insights If I Use Pingdom?

Google PageSpeed can be helpful as long as you don’t treat it as the be-all, end-all. Sometimes it can alert you to problem areas on your site that you can address like image optimization, web host caching, CDN, etc. So it’s best to look at PageSpeed as one of several tools in your arsenal that might provide some pointers, but your goal should always be to improve your actual speed, not your “PageSpeed” grade.Do not blindly trust Google PageSpeed or take it at face value. always focus on speed and don’t worry about chasing a grade. Always use an actual speed testing tool like Pingdom to see the impact of any changes you have made on your site.

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