How to Properly Test Your Website Speed

  • By Darrel Wilson
  • Last Updated: November 2, 2019
How to Properly Test Your Website Speed

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.

How to Test Your Website Speed Properly

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.

Run a number of tests

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.

Consider Different Test Locations

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.

Test Multiple Pages

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.

Top Three Tools to Test Your Website Speed

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.

Using Google PageSpeed Insights

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.

Testing With Pingdom Tools

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.

The page analysis will give you a nice overview of how big your images and other assets such as videos and fonts are, how many requests your website receives when it comes to JavaScript and CSS files, and more.

Similarly to PageSpeed Insights, you’ll get a list of recommendations on what to improve to see better page load times.

Testing Your Site With GTMetrix

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.

How to Read the Speed Test Results

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.

  1. Time to First Byte (TTFB) – is the time required for your browser to start receiving the information after requesting it from your server. This metric generally depends on your Internet speed as well as on how your server is configured and the distance between your servers and the user. You can address this issue by minimizing the number of website resources such as script and style files, using a CDN, and finding a host that’s closer to your target audience.
  1. Render-Blocking Javascript – refers to all those JavaScript files that have to render (be interpreted) by the browser before it can load the rest of your page. This is usually followed up by a message to defer JavaScript loading. This means you need to place the JavaScript files into a separate file and add a few lines of JavaScript to your website’s footer that will then call the separate JavaScript file. This can help with loading of the above the fold content of all the pages on your website.
  1. Render-blocking CSS – refers to the CSS files that need to load before your website can be used. It can be optimized in a few ways. You’ll want to combine all your CSS files into one and avoid using the @import method. Both CSS and JavaScript files should also be minified by removing unnecessary characters and whitespace from those files. A few tools that can help with this include:

A caching plugin like WP Super Cache can also minify those files for you.

  1. Minimize the number of HTTP Requests – this term refers to the number of times a browser has to fetch the data from your server using HTTP protocol. Generally, speaking you can improve this metric by implementing the above tips as well as reducing the number of plugins installed on your website.

Final Thoughts

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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