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Some clarity around page speed

Unlike other measures of speed, your Google Page Speed score is not a measure of speed. It’s a guideline.

If I was going Mach 1 or Mach 2 I know my speed has increased. However, Google Page Speed and YSlow are not a direct measure of speed. They are a guideline created to get to a fast page speed back when we were using HTTP/1.

Most people don’t understand this but it’s true. You can increase your page speed score and sow your website down AT THE SAME TIME.

Does my Google Page Speed or YSlow score matter?

The simple answer is no. Why? Well, that is a bit more complicated. Google Page Speed and YSlow are a guideline not a measure of page speed. You could get an A+ with Google Page speed and have a slow page.

Total Page Load time is what really matters especially if you are doing Adwords or Facebook marketing. Total Page Load time being lower is better and page conversion is directly related to a lower page speed. This means you need to take a close look at your total page load time more than any other metric when it comes to page speed.

Google Page Speed score and YSlow score are a guideline aimed at helping you make your page faster. When you get an A+ in either score these guidelines have been met. Sometimes however meeting this will slow your page down especially if you have an HTTP/2 enabled page.

Does Page Speed Score impact SEO?

1% of your SEO score is aimed at your SEO ranking. Slow pages will cost you more money than fast ones. The optimisation will ultimately enhance every website’s conversion and advertising is amplified by a fast website. Facebook campaigns are cheaper and overall it’s still important to get the times down. Slow pages will cost you more for Facebook advertising.

Fast Loading pages help your manage the cost of your social media campaign. On top of that website user engagement factors impact your SEO ranking heavily and a faster loading page will impact your SEO efforts more than a Google Page Speed Score or YSlow Score.

Why is Google page speed score out of date?

Google Page Speed and YSlow were created back over 5 years ago. Since that time the way the internet works has changed a bit because of HTTP/2. The guidelines still impact your load times and can still make a difference to your site delivery if you are using HTTP/1 however if you are using HTTP/2 the ranking factors really don’t matter that much anymore. They can help you identify issues but overall observing the whole guidelines often makes HTTP/2 based pages slower and less effective.

The repeated theme here is to check your total page load time over all other factors.

How does HTTP/2 improve on HTTP1?

I’m not going to get technical on you here but keep to the basics. HTTP/2 lets you download many files at once. Take a look at the downloads of this page below and see how all the assets load at once. That is the impact of HTTP/2.

A Water Fall Chart for HTTP/2 Example loading pattern

Using HTTP/2 will make a huge difference to page load times. Use HTTPS and HTTP/2 with a CDN and your cooking with gas.

What Should I measure with Page Speed?

What timing can you look at when testing your page speed and total download times? Each page goes through a number of phases as it loads.

The first phase is time to the first byte, also call TTFB.

This is basically the time it takes for your server to respond. It takes into account redirection, connection time and backend response time, this is the point that your server will return the first byte to the browser.

The second important phase is the DOM loaded Event.

This is the moment the HTML is ready for CSS and Javascript to be applied to it. It is when all your HTML for your full page is loaded.

The third event is the DOM Onload Event

This is when Javascript is called and jQuery is doing its magic. This event can often make a page fully interactive and is often the moment that Javascript frameworks like vue.js and Angular JS start calling your server for data. If you have a Javascript or jQuery heavy site checking the time this executes is really important.

The fourth and final event is fully load page time.

This is the time that really matters for Facebook, Google and SEO. Keeping this low will also impact your page conversion more than pretty much anything else. Total page load time should be less than 3 seconds for every page on your site.

We have some new page speed scores that take this into account but they are resolution dependant. These include the RUM Index which is worth keeping an eye on as it develops from BETA to an RC version.

Three things to check when reducing fully loaded page time.

1. The Server

Your server matters. A good server can make all the difference. Using a good server and dedicated hosting for your specific platform or CMS can make all the difference. I use for our WordPress websites as they make sure we have really fast pages and help deliver very fast loading pages. Your server needs HTTP/2 and HTTPS as well as GZIP and Cache times to be set on the server.

2. The Location

Your server location matters both geographically and physically. A good data centre is a good location relative to your customers can really make a HUGE difference in page speed times. If you have a global audience a CDN is needed.

3. Images and page assets

Overall most of your page load is images. Optimise them as much as possible. GTMetrix is a great tool to help you identify bad images or those that can be further optimised. WordPress has a number of automated tools to help you but ideally, you should be using image optimisation before you upload to WordPress. Be ruthless and keep those images loading fast.

Page tools we recommend for page speed

GTMetrix is without doubt an amazing tool for page speed. Learn how to use it and make use of the monitoring tools on your webpage. I cannot underemphasize the need for monitoring. It will help you identify the real problems you have with page speed and what is slowing your site.

Where can I get the checklist?

Download below – we put it on process street to make it easy to use. Overall, however – just watch the video and we will let you know when we launch our new learning area.

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