Why load times, not PageSpeed, are important for good SEO

Web Load Time

Forget about Page Speed!

More often lately, we see people flipping out about not landing a high enough score in Google’s PageSpeed.

 

This expresses the reality of how difficult it is for some people to understand how a powerhouse like Google can offer a tool that doesn’t really matter – but here’s the thing: it doesn’t. Not unless you’re a developer. So, for the purposes of this article, let’s just assume you aren’t.

 

PageSpeed Insights lack context

PageSpeed leverages results gleaned from a pre-defined list of a dozen or so metrics that lack context to the bigger picture. Reading PageSpeed results without knowing how to interpret the results might just drive you crazy in the end. So, here’s some advice for you – just don’t do it.

 

Truly, the only really important thing is that your site should be responsive. It should be mobile-first. But that’s where it begins and ends.

 

News flash: PageSpeed doesn’t even measure your site’s load times. So, in essence, even the name is more than a bit misleading.

 

In terms of performance optimization, and unless you are a developer, your focus should be on metrics other than load time.

 

How much you should not care about PageSpeed

Caveat – this post is not about performance optimization. It’s about how much the average person should not care about a PageSpeed score. You are far better off focusing on testing load times, as this is a more relevant item. If you are self-configuring your own WordPress site, keep in mind that your caching plugins will automatically make this better, so diving into an optimization of your CSS and JavaScript is really unnecessary, especially if you don’t have the technical skills to accomplish it.

 

If you are among the hordes who don’t know how to hack code to make Google happy, here’s an easy way for you to check into how your WordPress site is performing:

 

  1. Navigate to Pingdom Tools
  2. Enter the URL of your homepage (copy/paste from your browser for best results)
  3. Choose a location nearest to your biggest concentration of customers/audience
  4. If you can’t find a city/country that matches, choose the closest one
  5. Click to run the test
  6. Repeat this process a couple of times
  7. Check ONLY your load times – NOT “performance grade”, which is generated by PageSpeed’s API, so just pretend you didn’t see it
  8. If your self-hosted, self-configured WordPress page is showing a load time of fewer than two seconds – pour yourself a cold one
  9. Less than 1-1/2 seconds, start the grill
  10. Less than one second, alert the neighborhood. You have arrived.

 

However, if your load time is more than two seconds, sort the “File Requests” column by “Load Time” and think about deactivating or getting rid of some of the plugins that might be sending external requests to underperforming services.

 

And that’s that – in a nutshell, of course. If you are a developer, there are probably plenty of things going through your mind right now about render-blocking JavaScript and CSS blah blah blah, but for the vast majority of you who are just trying to make sure your website is performing well for you in the SERPs, just remember this mantra and repeat after me:

 

“Forget PageSpeed, test load times.”

 

Still have questions about PageSpeed, load times, and how you can optimize your site’s performance? Reach out today.