The speed of which your content loads on your webpages is crucial to both your search engine rankings and your website conversions. That is, getting people to take action on your website, whether it be to buy your product or fill in an enquiry form.
The longer people have to wait to see your content, the more likely they are to leave.
In most cases, newly-built websites will need a bit of work when it comes to increasing speed. Page speed isn’t usually at the top of the to-do list, but it becomes more and more important as you start to get traffic onto your website.
But how can you test the speed of your website?
Thankfully there’s a number of free tools that you can take advantage of that not only tell you how quick your pages load, but give you a breakdown of why your pages are loading at those speeds.
The Big Three
There’s three main tools that we use for our SEO purposes and each ultimately provide the same function; to test your website’s performance.
Website speed is only one area of website performance, but it’s what you should be focusing on; getting your page speeds as low as possible without compromising the functionality of your website (it can be taken too far!).
1. Google PageSpeed Insights
The first tool available to you is PageSpeed Insights. It’s Google’s own version of a website speed test. Although it doesn’t actually tell you the time in which your webpages load, it’s a good starting point for improving the speed of your website. Seeing as Google is the world’s most used search engine, it can’t hurt to give it a look.
Head over to PageSpeed Insights, type your domain URL into the box and hit the analyse button:
Google will have a look over the page that you submitted:
You’ll then get two reports; one for your desktop site and one for your mobile version. Your scores are likely to differ between the two.
Here’s our scores:
(We’ve got a bit of work to do!)
Try to get a green score (over 85). Don’t try and go for 100/100, you’ll pull your hair out trying to do so, and lose some functionality of your website while you’re at it.
Let’s take a closer look at why Google gave The Business Bible those scores. In our case, the scores and recommendations for both mobile and desktop are very similar.
Starting with what we’d done right:
- Avoided landing page redirects. Our homepage (https://thebusinessbible.uk) didn’t forward to another URL, which would add extra loading times.
- Enabled Compression. This was done automatically thanks to our website hosting provider using GZIP, which compresses your website files for faster loading times. You may want to check it your hosting provider offers compression with your package.
- Minified HTML. Our website HTML files were served as one file and not multiple files, thus reducing load times.
- Prioritised Visible Content. Our content critical to what users see first was loaded before anything else. That means our readers won’t be hanging around looking at a white screen while the whole webpage loads.
What we need to improve on:
- Reduce Server Response Time. This is the time it takes for your website hosting server to respond to an action, such as someone clicking through to your website from a search engine result. Google recommends a time of 200ms or lower, and is determined by a number of factors including the type of hosting plan that you’re on, and how much ‘stuff’ is packed onto your website. Typically, the better resources your website hosting has, the quicker the response times. If you’re on shared hosting plan, you might want to consider changing to a dedicated one (your website has it’s own server resources), but will most likely be more expensive. You get what you pay for!
- Leverage Browser Caching. ‘Leveraging’ is telling browsers what they should do with your files. You want browsers to remember files that are used across multiple pages on your website, such as your logo, so that they don’t have to be loaded again and again. Varvy have a great article on how to leverage browser caching if you want to find out more.
- Optimise Images. Images can be the biggest cause of long loading times due to their file sizes. It’s all well and good having incredible images on your site but if they add an extra 5 seconds to your page load times then they aren’t doing you any favours. Google recommends to you some of your images that you should be decreasing in file size.
The great news is, Google actually provides the optimised images for you! Head down to the bottom of the page and click on the link to download your optimised images.
Google PageSpeed Insights should be used in combination with our other two favourite tools to improve the speed of your website.
Now we start getting into the real page speed analysis. Pingdom if the first of two tools that gives you a much deeper insight into how your website is performing.
Head over to Pingdom and enter your domain URL along with the nearest location to where your website’s server is, and hit start test.
Here are the results for The Business Bible:
Pingdom gives you the results you actually want to see:
- Your overall performance grade
- The time it took for your page to load
- The size of your page
- The number of different requests each user has to make to load your page
You can see that we’ve managed a performance grade B of 88, which isn’t bad at all. Our homepage file size coms to 1.3MB and it took 1 and a half seconds to load the page on this test.
You might want to repeat the test a number of times to get an feel of how your website is really performing. as the next test we did came back with a load time of 2.5 seconds.
Our performance grade always stayed the same because it used Google’s PageSpeed grade (which is strangely a different score to the test done with Google!)
Our page load time varied from 1.5 second to 2.5 seconds. Why’s that?
We can find out why further down in the results page on Pingdom.
You’ll want to scroll down to File Requests. This brilliant graph shows you what files need to be loaded on your webpage, and in what order.
The first item on the graph is the response time from your website’s hosting server. In our case, each time we ran the test, the graph showed that our server response times changed by approximately a second. Hence the 1 second difference in overall load times between our tests.
The quick server response time:
The slow server response time:
Remember our Google PageSpeed Test that we ran earlier? One of the recommendations was to reduce server response time. The Pingdom Tool is confirming that our server response time is sometimes too long.
What can we do about it?
We’re probably maximising our server resources and so we’ll have to have a chat with our hosting provider to see if resources are indeed the problem, and whether upgrading our plan would help.
Either way, a 2 and a half second page load time is fine. If it was 10 seconds we’d be a bit worried!
The Pingdom page test tool is great for seeing what’s causing any slow page load times on your website. Take a look through the File Requests graph for your website to see which files might be the cause.
We noticed two files that stood out as taking longer than usual to load. The first one being our font files, but they don’t delay the loading of our other files so its ok.
Another file was something we didn’t have a clue about:
Giving it a quick Google search we found out that it’s our shopping cart loading into the main menu. Know we know, we can just turn it off if we want to improve our page load times!
Pingom will also give you a simpler breakdown of how big each types of file are, as well as what your website is having to load in from other websites.
In our case, everything looks fine. If our images were shown to make up a high percentage of the total file size then we would probably look to optimise those images and reduce them in file size.
3. GT Metrix
The GT Metrix web page performance tool builds upon the Google PageSpeed tool to provide a more in-depth report of your web pages.
Here’s our score for The Business Bible:
We managed to get a PageSpeed Score of 76% and a YSlow Score of 62%. We could do better!
PageSpeed and YSlow scores are based on front-end performance of your website; the things that you mostly have control over such as images. They don’t take into account stuff like how good your hosting package is. The scores are out of 100 and give you a percentage rating based on how much your website adheres to best practices.
You might have also noticed that our page loads in 4.4 seconds; a lot slower than the time shown by the Pingdom tests. GTMetrix tests are run from Canada, and so we’d expect to see slower load times because our website is hosted in the UK.
GTMetrix gives you a breakdown of recommendations for your site’s performance for page speed:
The recommendations higher up the list will impact your score the most. Your list will probably be similar to the recommendations from your Google PageSpeed test.
At the top of our list of recommendations is our images:
GTMetrix recommends that we reduce the size of a few images on our homepage to save less than 0.1MB of data.
Is it worth it? Not so much in this case.
Check out what score GTMetrix gives your website, and see what items are at the top of your list of recommendations.
Which Tool Should I Be Using?
We’d recommend giving all three a try to begin with to see what scores and recommendations you’re getting for your website. In doing so you’ll get a good idea of what you need to be doing to your website to speed it up, whether it’s optimising your images or upgrading your hosting plan.
The one thing you should be focusing on is the load time as shown by the Pingdom speed test. It’s really the only thing that matters in the end; making sure that people aren’t waiting around for your website to load. As we mentioned earlier, the longer they have to wait, the more likely they will leave.
We’d also advise to not chase after perfect scores for the three tests. You’ll strip your website bare trying to do so. GTMetrix even recommends not trying to get a perfect score in their test!
Test your website using these three website speed test tools. What scores are you getting? Let us know in the comments below!Follow us: