My Score on Google PageSpeed Insights is not 100. Why?

Everyone knows that speed is important when it comes to having a successful site. Humans and bots alike will favour your site if it loads faster than all the others. 

Some of our clients rely on Google PageSpeed Insights as the main tool to measure speed, but this isn't the best choice.

The Google speed test is not a speed test

The Google PageSpeed Insights tool does not measure speed. Out of all their sub-tests, only one actually uses time-to-load as a unit: "server response time" -- and it's very vague. 

All other sub-tests should be considered very broad good-practice recommendations. In other words, you could achieve a grade of a 100 and still have a relatively slow site. 

Some recommendations are not worth it

Some recommendations could even be considered outdated. Take concatenation of scripts, for example. These are good techniques if you are on HTTP/1.1. But if your site has been upgraded to HTTP/2 (through HTTPS), then it's actually a better course of action to leave files separated. 

Other recommendations are plain impossible for some sites. If your site has external elements (Instagram widgets, Youtube embeds, sharing buttons -- you know, the usual) chances are your site will never hit higher than 80% on the PageSpeed test. This is because you can't optimize those external applications (see more on this  here). Even if everything else on your site is up to their standards, that part is out of your jurisdiction. 

On WordPress sites, themes are also a big obstacle to achieving 100%. Most modern themes come packed with Google Fonts, or some sort of Javascript that can't be migrated to the footer. And almost no one will inline their CSS and JS code just to avoid the infamous "Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content" recommendation. To remove that recommendation, you would have to modify your theme to a ridiculous extent. 

It's definitely worth it for sites that are custom built and you are willing to pay for the extra complexity. However, it's not worth it if you are using an off-the-shelf plugin.

Other recommendations should be followed (and are)

If you are hosted by us, your site already follows these recommendations:

  • Image optimization (we use the premium service, it's free for all our clients). Some images can be missed or skipped due to technical issues with the file format.
  • Enable compression.
  • Browser caching.
  • Server response time (if our servers go over the threshold of 200ms, we've probably already talked to you about how to optimise that).

Even if the Google Test shows these recommendations, you can rest assured that your site has these enabled. Sometimes the recommendations could be triggered by external applications, but as we discussed, there is not much you can do about it.

The extra mile

And then, there are some recommendations that Google won't include, but we still provide:

  • Content delivery network/CDN (free, included for all our clients).
  • HTTP/2 (when you upgrade to HTTPS. See what the big deal is).
  • Nginx + PHP7 (most of our clients are already on this).

These will impact your loading speed significantly more than minifying your scripts or inlining your above-the-fold CSS. 

Real speed tests

If your want to measure speed, we recommend tests like  Dareboost (paid), Pingdom and GTmetrix (both free). They include similar information to Google PageSpeed Insights, but they actually are focused on speed -- even though they don't have "speed" in their names. 

If you'd like to really understand where your site is at, book in for a  WordPress Speed Report by Performance Foundry where we can apply our years of experience and other great tools to give you the leverage and knowledge needed to improve your site speed.

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