Google PageSpeed Insights

A layman’s guide to Google PageSpeed Insights

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PageSpeed Insights is a popular tool used to check if your website is technically sound. Meaning, does it load right? Is it too slow? Does it provide the visitor with a good experience? and so on.

It is a free tool by Google that helps quickly assess the state of your website and debug what the issues are. In this blog, we will talk about this tool and how you can use it to fix many of the issues plaguing your website. Let’s first start with why. Why is this important?

PageSpeed Insights results

Why PageSpeed Insights score matter to rank high?

Imagine you search something on Google – say, “How to change a tire in a car”. You got a bunch of search results and you clicked on one of them. And it took forever to load. You got irritated and pressed back. You clicked on the next search result after that. It loaded fast but the font size of the website was too small for you to read on your mobile.

By now, you are super frustrated. You have been standing in your garage for 10 mins, just trying to get the instructions on how to change a tire. Who will you blame? First, Google for giving you horrible search results. Second, the websites you opened. Given a choice, you will never visit those websites again.

And Google understands this. It knows that if a website in its search results, does not give its users a good experience – it affects the user’s perception of Google as well.

What is PageSpeed Insights

To solve this, Google created a checklist of parameters that make a user’s experience of a website great. Then, they measured every website on these parameters. They called it Core Web Vitals. For eg. one of the parameters checks how long it takes for the page to load and for the user to start interacting with the website.

If your website scores high on Core Web Vitals, you will rank higher on search than a website that scores low on the same parameters. All other things being equal.

But how will a website owner know if their website is scoring well on Core Web Vitals? Well, that is where the PageSpeed Insights tool comes into the picture. You put your website URL, and it will tell you exactly which parameters are doing well and which are not.

Before we continue further, please check your current score on the tool to get a reference point.

Done? Ok. Let’s put some more context to the scores.

Understanding PageSpeed Insights score

There are four main categories in which each website is assessed – Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO. Each category is given a score out of 100.

It gives these scores for two screen sizes: Mobile and Desktop.

Having said that, you don’t need a perfect 100 in each to rank high on Google Search. However, high scores on your Core web vitals ensure that Google sees your website favorably.

With high scores, Google knows that IF you have valuable content on your website, it CAN show your website on search results and expect a good experience for search users.

A good score in the PageSpeed Insights tool basically improves the chances of ranking your content high.

Let’s look at each category of assessment in some detail:

Performance

This category is directly affected by your Core Web Vitals. It tells you how quickly your website loads. It tells you if there are too many fancy motion effects that make it difficult for the user to access the website. In simple terms, this category rates your website on the speed of page load and interaction ability.

To increase your score in Performance, you need some technical skills. A lot of the changes will be related to CSS and Javascript. Increasing the score here often requires experiments with different CSS and JS settings.

Accessibility

This category assesses the ease of navigation for users. It tells you if the links are easy to identify and click. It tells you if the text and background have good contrast for visually impaired users. In simple terms, if you score well here, it means your website is easy to navigate around for all kinds of users.

Accessibility scores are relatively easier to improve. You just need to look at the suggestions given by the tool and edit the website design/content accordingly.

Best Practices

This category checks if the best practices in website development have been followed on the website. For eg. it checks if the images have aspect ratio defined to render properly on different screens.

Best Practices score is also relatively easy to optimize. Any good web developer would be able to do it within a few days.

SEO

The last category of the score is SEO. This checks how easy it is for search engine bots to crawl and understand your website.

Like the last few categories, SEO score is also easy to fix. Any SEO expert can help you do that within a few days.

What is a good score in PageSpeed Insights?

Ok, now let’s look at what score we should target in each category. Here is my suggestion:

For Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO: target a score of 90+ on both mobile and desktop.

For Performance: it is hard to cross 90 consistently in performance. In my view, target 70+ for mobile and 80+ for desktop. Optimizing after 70-80 is harder and may not give you a good ROI for the effort you put in.

PageSpeed scores for Top tech brands

Now, you might think the top tech brands esp. the FAANG companies, would have close to 100 scores in all.

That’s not true. Here are the PageSpeed reports of Google, Apple, and Amazon. You can see that they do not always score well on all parameters. But for these companies, their brand is so strong that even if they score less, search engine results will show them on page 1 for all relevant searches.

How are my own websites doing

I had to strip my SEO blog to a minimalistic website to get a 90+ score in all for mobile and desktop. Here is my report.

For my SEO agency, the max I could manage was a 70 for mobile and a 90 for desktop version. Here is the PageSpeed report for my agency.

As you can see, you need not try to get a 100 in all. Just target the score I mentioned earlier and you can check this factor off.

PageSpeed scores change over time

Another important thing to note is that these scores are not static. They can fluctuate a fair bit. Keep in mind, there are other factors also at play here esp. in performance. For eg. the speed at which your web server is serving the requests.

But generally, the scores do not change drastically unless something changes on the website or Google updates the parameters of measurement.

Fun exercise: 
You can try running the PageSpeed test on the URLs in this blog and see if they have changed.

Conclusion

PageSpeed Insights tool is a great way to ensure that users are having a good experience interacting with your website.

But do remember that a high score DOES NOT mean a high ranking on search. You still have to work on giving value through your content.

But a low score WILL DEFINITELY EFFECT your search rankings NEGATIVELY.

Further reading on SG.com

You can read all our SEO blogs here. Some notable mentions you might find useful are on how to set the right SEO budget and measure its ROI and how to rank higher by making your website more search-bot friendly.

You should also link your website to Google Search Console. It is a FREE tool that will show you the very insightful data Google has, about your website. I have explained the basics of Google Search Console in this blog and this.

To greater organic traffic on your websites,
Shyam

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