I touched a little bit on this point in our Google Analytics: The One Sided Story Trap but it is conference season and we are starting to be flooded with panicked calls about website under performance. Which is good! We like when our clients challenge the norm, start thinking outside of the box and want to demand more from their website. Everyone should do that everyday! However we always want to remember that presenters at conferences have a limited time to talk about their topic. They generally focus on the big WOWS and often forget to mention some of the drag backs to their new strategies and tools. Don’t get me wrong new tools are awesome and we use them but we should also understand exactly what they are good for and what they aren’t. Let’s talk about this seasons hottest new tool causing everyone to worry: Google Speed Test Insights
This handy little tool gives you a great gauge of how quickly your site loads. If you have ever heard someone from Google speak – speed is queen right right behind the king, content. It is nice because it shows you what you should fix – urgent, what you should consider fixing – less urgent and what you do well – pat yourself on the back! It also gives you a separate score for user experience. Which I think is super handy.
Things you have to remember when using this tool. 99% of sites rank horribly for speed according to this tool. Google.com only ranks 79/100 for mobile speed and only 92/100 and they literally have almost NOTHING on their homepage. If Google’s homepage can’t get a perfect score no one can. Amazon.com ranks in the yellow for both mobile and desktop. Discoveramerica.com 47/100 for mobile and 43/100 for desktop. The point here being take these number with lots of grains of salts. There is always room for improvement and you should most definitely talk your your website crew and see if there is anything from the list of fixes that should be applied. We have to remember that everything we choose to do has pros and cons, our jobs are to make sure that the pros always out weigh the cons. We all want to have image/video rich sites that inspire and engage our visitors BUT you have can not have a image/video heavy site and be the fastest site around at the same time. So use this tool in combination with your Analytics to see if the speed issue is really effecting your usage. A good backup gauge is bounce rate, speed is a huge factor on bounce rate. I like to look at the bounce rate for organic search as a gauge. These are the visitors that are looking for something specific so the bounce rate for organic search is high there is good probability you need to make some adjustments.
Once last not on the this service. It builds it’s recommendation based purely on page load time. There is something that we like to call “time to use” that is more important and can really only be measured by the individual using the site. The theory behind time to use is load the elements of the page in a way that users can actually start interacting with page before all the elements have loaded. You can load things like YouTube videos, social media feeds and below the fold images in the background. Using these methods, a bot such as this speed test might think it takes 6-10 seconds to load your site but a user has no idea because they can “use” it almost instantly.
As always, dig deeper into the data! There is always room to improve but make sure you are focusing your time, energy and funds on the tasks that allow for the most improvement!