Page speed matters. Not only is it a ranking factor according to Google but it also determines how well your visitors are converting. According to research, if your website takes longer than three seconds to load, you are at a risk of losing nearly half of your visitors.
While optimizing your website to load fast is important, first you need to test your website speed. More importantly, you have to do it properly. In this post, I’ll show you what goes into proper website speed testing, how to test your website with three most popular tools, and how to interpret the results of the test.
The tools that help you measure your website speed are great but they won’t help you if all you do is check your website once in a blue moon. If you want to get real results and test your website properly, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
The first advice is to run a number of speed tests and run them at different times throughout the day. The reason behind this is simple: your website’s performance changes throughout the day based on how many visitors are currently browsing it as well as the number of resources used by other websites on the same hosting server as you.
A good place to start is to run 5-10 website speed tests throughout the day and compare the results you get. You can then calculate the average test score to get a more accurate speed test result.
It’s worth mentioning that while running a number of tests will show different load times, the results behind what’s causing the slow loading time and suggested improvements should remain constant with each test.
Certain tools allow you to choose the location from which the test will be performed. If your website caters to a local audience exclusively, you’ll want to select the server that’s closest to you.
But, if you’re testing a website with a worldwide audience then testing from multiple locations is highly recommended. Make sure you can select at least one server from each continent to ensure you can get results from key locations around the globe.
The last consideration you need to keep in mind is that a proper speed test requires testing multiple pages on your site. Your homepage may not be as content and resource intensive as your blog or your products page. This can give you a false report, not to mention that the homepage may not even be your most visited page to begin with.
If you think about it, you’re probably promoting your blog posts, product pages, and you might even be linking to your landing page or your services page. If you want to get accurate results, be sure to test those pages as well.
There is no shortage of different tools and platforms that will help you test your website speed. However, the three most popular options are Page Speed Insights by Google, Pingdom Tools, and GTMetrix. Let’s take a look at how to use each of them and the results they give you.
The first tool on the list is PageSpeed Insights by Google. Start by entering your website URL and then click on Analyze. The results are compiled by using the Lighthouse tool which is an open-source, automated tool designed to help improve the quality of web pages.
As such, the test is performed on an emulated desktop and mobile device and takes into consideration the time to first paint as well as time to interactive. In layman’s terms, this means it gives you the results based on the time it takes for the first image to load and the time at which your website can be interacted with.
Once the test is complete, you will get results both for mobile and desktop devices as well as list of recommended changes that will help speed up your website.
The next tool on the list is Pingdom Tools. This tool allows you to choose your testing location so be sure to select the location that’s closest to your website first. Then, enter your website URL and start the test.
The test results are divided into four categories: a waterfall breakdown, performance grade, page analysis, and history.
Similarly to PageSpeed Insights, you’ll get a list of recommendations on what to improve to see better page load times.
The last tool on the list is GTMetrix. This tool is the most comprehensive out of the three as it gives you PageSpeed results as well as YSlow results. Once the test is complete you’ll get a grade that ranges from A to F and a detailed breakdown of the results which include waterfall, video, and history on top of PageSpeed and YSlow.
If you register for a free account with GTMetrix, you’re also able to choose your server location as well as a browser that should be used to run the test. You can opt for Google Chrome or Firefox.
Once you’ve completed your speed tests, there are four key terms you need to know so you can read and understand the results. This will then help you implement the recommended changes.
A caching plugin like WP Super Cache can also minify those files for you.
Improving your website speed is crucial but first, you have to know how to test your site and how to read the results of the test so you can implement the necessary changes. Use this tutorial to help you properly test your website speed.
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