Everywhere I am these days I am seeing everyone freaking out because their Google PageSpeed Insights scores are way too low.
The obsession for the perfect 100 is giving website owners false hope that you will get some kind of rank boost and that your page speed will be faster.
This is not necessarily the case.
Your PageSpeed Insights score does not really matter!
I puppy promise that this is true – and puppies never lie right?
PageSpeed Insights Is Not A Page Speed Tool
You can disagree, but as an SEO agency we care very much about site speed and PageSpeed Insights is not a tool we use (nor do many others) to determine page speed for our clients.
PageSpeed Insights does not even measure page speed!
So what is the Google PageSpeed Insights tool then?
It is a tool that will help you find technical issues that might be impacting page speed and your users experience – but it does not provide any indication of what your site speed is.
It is a performance tool that will help you see if your front end is properly optimized to bring you the best performing website to keep users engaged and moving around quickly.
Again – there is NO page speed testing involved when you run this tool.
Is page speed really all that important for ranking?
Yes – and No.
Whether we are doing an audit, SEO campaign or launching a website – we do our best to get clients to have a page speed of 3 seconds or less. That is what we recommend as a page speed target.
If you are loading in 4 or 5 seconds or even higher – it is not the end of the world – and Google will not prevent you from ranking high.
While page speed is definitely a factor in ranking it is 1 of over 200 ranking factors.
Think about that – there are over 200 RANKING FACTORS.
Google is not going to look at your post – and say wow, this article has everything the searcher is looking for, but hey it loads in 7 seconds so we wont rank it.
So while you should absolutely make your website as fast as you can – especially for your users, it is not the ultimate factor in whether you rank highly or not. Backlinks and great content will ultimately help you more as we will prove below.
PageSpeed Insights Analysis
Below are a few sites we just randomly picked in a variety of niches where we tested their website in PageSpeed Insights as well as WebPageTest (our preferred page speed tester) – so we can see the correlation between 3 factors: WebPageTest Page Speed, PageSpeed Insights and rank.
Each of these websites was built on WordPress which is important to note. Some are raving about great PageSpeed scores and fast load times, but they are not built on WordPress and that can have an impact.
I am in NO WAY condoning not caring about your website speed by analyzing these websites, but am just proving that it should not be an obsession that you put far ahead of writing awesome content, doing proper keyword analysis and earning backlinks. It should be a piece of the whole SEO puzzle.
I did not add the blog names to protect the guilty! I do not want to call out those that may have less than optimal experiences and we do not want to make them feel bad!
Website #1 – Food Blog
Absolutely horrible load time, horrible Insight scores and still has massive exposure in the search engines.
- Ranks for an estimated 186,000 keywords (4,700 are in the top 5 positions)
- 1,000+ backlinks
- PageSpeed Insights Scores are 17 mobile and 32 desktop
- WebPageTest load time is 14 seconds to document complete load
I added this blog because it is a blog that is loading slow, has horrible insight scores but it still killing it in search. Their backlink profile is strong and their content is well optimized and well researched for keywords which is what puts it ahead of the pack – even with horrible page speed.
Website #2 – Pet Blog
Slow load time, miserable Insight scores but still killing it in search.
- Ranks for an estimated 101,000 keywords (2,900 are in the top 5 positions)
- 900+ backlinks
- PageSpeed Insights Scores are 18 mobile and 40 desktop
- WebPageTest load time is 7 seconds to document complete load
Another blog that is loading slow, has horrible insight scores but it is still killing it in the search results. Their backlink profile is strong and their content is well optimized and well researched for keyword optimization which is what helps it be strong at the top of the search engines.
Website #3 – Marketing Website & Blog
Great page speed with not so great mobile Insights score.
- Ranks for an estimated 1 Million keywords (2,900 are in the top 5 positions)
- 66K+ backlinks
- PageSpeed Insights Scores are 65 mobile and 97 desktop
- WebPageTest load time is 2.7 seconds fully loaded
This one is a good example because you can see that the mobile PageSpeed Score is on the lower side of average but yet the page speed is 2.7 seconds which is perfectly acceptable!
Here are just a few of the items that the website is showing are issues on mobile and why they may not even be fixable.
1. Under eliminate render-blocking resources there are some CSS and JS files that could probably be redone to be deferred or asynced, but he did not bother – that estimated .14s in savings is probably not worth the work.
2. Ensure text remains visible is one of the bigger issues being reported but this is not something that most people are dealing with since many pull their fonts from Google and right now there is not way to address this issue with the Google font library. (Although they have announced a solution is coming).
The only way to fix this specific issue is to add the fonts directly to your website or use something called webfont.js – both of these will require a developer.
3. Under serve static assets with efficient cache there a number of files that are stating the cache settings are too low. These are from places like Google, Webfont and other 3rd party sources that the website owner has no control over. Nothing you can do here so this is an issue that will bring your score down with no way for you to fix it.
So, in a nutshell – most of these items that are lowering his mobile score he has no control over. Since he is loading in 2-3 seconds, they are not even really worth worrying about as it would take more time to try and fix these for little impact on the outcome for those fixes.
Website #4 – SEO Company
Low Insight scores and slower than expected load times.
- Ranks for an estimated 13K (423 are in the top 5 positions)
- 4K+ backlinks
- PageSpeed Insights Scores are 25 mobile and 58 desktop
- WebPageTest load time is 6.5 seconds to document complete load
An SEO company – with horrible PageSpeed scores? Oh no!
But yet – they rank very well for most basic SEO terms in Google. Their slow page speed score and Insights score is clearly not impacting their ranking all that much.
Website #5 – Conversion Testing Software
Miserable Insight scores but fairly fast loading.
- Ranks for an estimated 44K (1,500 are in the top 5 positions)
- 13K+ backlinks
- PageSpeed Insights Scores are 7 mobile and 48 desktop
- WebPageTest load time is 4 seconds to document complete load
This is one my favorite examples as this website has a dismal score of 7 on PageSpeed Insights – but yet, their website loads in 4 seconds.
Website #6 – Lifestyle Over 40 Blogger
Very slow loading, poor Insight scores but still ranks incredibly well.
- Ranks for an estimated 52K (3,700 are in the top 5 positions)
- 1K+ backlinks
- PageSpeed Insights Scores are 16 mobile and 45 desktop
- WebPageTest load time is 14 seconds to document complete load
Website #7 – Mommy Blogger
Load time is fair but Insights scores are horrible yet site gets a whole lot of visitors and is growing in organic rank.
- Ranks for an estimated 1 Million (28,400 are in the top 5 positions)
- 16K+ backlinks
- PageSpeed Insights Scores are 30 mobile and 29 desktop
- WebPageTest load time is 5 seconds to document complete load
By far the best example is this one. You can see the PageSpeed ratings are horrible – but yet their page speed is about 5 seconds, which is acceptable for a blog with a lot going on. When I loaded the page on my phone it was a good experience too! The site is growing in organic rank
Website #8 – Hosting Company (WP Engine)
This one we added solely to drive the point home that even hosts that sell their services based on page speed do not score well in PageSpeed Insights.
They have a 34 mobile and 72 desktop in Insights.
Their time to document complete is 4.8 seconds.
Website #9 – Hosting Company (GetFlywheel)
Yep another hosting company – that has great reviews and promotes site speed in their marketing.
They have a 21 mobile and 68 desktop in Insights.
Their time to document complete is 6.2 seconds.
If the above examples do not convince you that PageSpeed Insights is not a valid tool to obsess over, I do not know what will!
So you still don’t believe your PageSpeed score is not that important?
I get it – you do not know me.
I am not some super popular SEO you have heard of – I am just some schmuck writing a post you probably question up and down.
For the record – I have been doing SEO for over 12 years. I have spoken about it, I have taught about it and I have made lots of money with it. But I am not a good marketer as I prefer to stay behind the scenes.
But if you choose to still not believe me – then maybe you will believe these guys.
WP Rocket – yeah, you know the company that optimizes for speed. They don’t want you stressing over PageSpeed Insights either. You can read their article on “Why You Should Not Care About Google PageSpeed Insights“.
One of the biggest page speed issues.
Hosting! Hosting! Hosting!
This is the number one related issue that will cause low scores with PageSpeed Insights as well as tools like GTMetrix or WebPageTest.
It does not matter how many other things you fix, if your hosting is bad your score will always be low. Changing hosting companies is typically the first recommendation we have regarding clients who are suffering major speed issues.
STORY: We recently helped a client migrate their existing website to a new host because they were having major issues with site speed and could not figure out why. When they reached out to me they had load times that were always over 15 seconds. We moved them to LiquidWeb – and although they chose this host after doing their own research is is our preferred host as well.
Once moved – their load times were at 1 second.
NOTHING else was done to this website other than a migration. They already had a low page size and minimal requests as you can see below which is why we told them to just move to a new host.
They did. Now they are happy!
What PageSpeed Insights is good for!
A whole lot of things!
While we do not encourage you use it to look at those meaningless scores – we do encourage you to review it to see areas in which you can improve your website.
Below is a rough outline of the things it will give you scores for and just a rough idea of how you can deal with them.
We will be doing a more in-depth post soon about each of these items.
- Eliminate render-blocking resources – this is your files like CSS and JS that are blocking your page from loading fast. Recommendation is to defer them to the footer and in most cases this will be enough.
- Remove unused CSS – this one is tricky and if you do not handle this correctly it can break your website. Basically it is telling you that there is CSS being called that is not used on the page or is being called too early in the page load. Like footer specific CSS. To handle this you would need to separate out your CSS into different files and have them served up differently.
- Reduce server response times (TTFB) is how fast your server is sending a response for Google to deliver the page. This can be affected by your code, host, plugins and so much more.
- Serve images in next-gen formats – this is a new and most are not even familiar with it yet. There are a few plugins that do this – but it is not mainstream yet.
- Efficiently encode images are images that can just be reduced in size with better optimization or compressions.
- Ensure text remains visible during webfont load is something new and since most use Google fonts for fonts there is not much you can yet. Google fonts is changing some things so this standard can be met but it is not ready yet. The only way to handle this specific issue is to host the fonts on your own website and call them in a way you can load them to display on load.
- Serve static assets with efficient cache policy is one of the hardest ones to meet the requirements for since many of the files they show as not being cached are pulled in from 3rd party websites – which we have no control over the cache for. Like Analytics or ads and even some plugins that pull in JS from other websites.
There is so much more – but we will follow up in the future with another post and video to help you be able to handle most of this yourself.
What is a good page speed for a website?
As a guide we suggest 2-3 seconds should be your target. Also remember to to test NOT just your home page – but some of your inner pages.
At what speed does Google penalize websites for speed?
There is no exact page speed that is a “trigger” for you to lose rank or even visitors. Google released the “Speed Update” that started in July of 2018 and focused on mobile was instilled to get website owners to offer better mobile experiences.
In their own words they clearly state they will still deliver a slow page if it is relevant to the search query.
The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.Google 2018
Are you convinced yet?
Has this post helped you understand that this tool is just a guide to help you improve your website but not a make or break analysis for your future success?
Bark at us and let us know!
Jill Caren brings over 12 years of WordPress and SEO experience to help you improve and grow your website. She has spoken at several events on SEO and has been published in several top SEO publications. You can contact Jill here.