Is Page Speed Overrated?

Mar 11, 2020

Webmasters these days freak out when it comes to their Google Page Speed insights score. While it is well-known that caring about your website’s page speed is good practice, the authenticity of Google Pagespeed Insights score is a little controversial. Yet people seem to be obsessed with the maximum Google Pagespeed Insights score. “If you want you can get a performance report by ShimmerCat’s expert for free to find bottlenecks and options to increase speed.“

Let’s explore if it deserves to be this overrated.

First of all, a high Google Page Speed Insights score gives false hopes. Webmasters start believing that actual page speed is that faster and rank boost is a sure thing. None of this is true.

PageSpeed Insights is not a Page Speed Tool

You may disagree here. Though the reality is that most of the SEO agencies do not use PageSpeed Insights to figure out the page speed for their clients.

What is ‘Google Page Speed Insights’

Rather than telling the exact Page Speed, Pagespeed Insights will let you know about all the technical faults that may hinder your page speed and ruin the user experience. But for sure, it does not give any clue about what actual website speed or page speed is.

Pagespeed Insights is a performance tracking tool. It will let you check if the front end is optimized enough to give the best performing website where user experience is good and smooth navigation is available. But, please notice that when you run this tool, it does not involve any kind of page speed testing.

Is Page Speed Overrated?

The answer to this question is both yes or no.

Most SEO agencies try their level best to let their client’s website have a page speed of three seconds. Whether it is an audit, SEO campaign, or website launch.

Though this won’t be the end of the world if it rises to four or five seconds. Do not think you are doomed. Google will not necessarily prevent your high rank.

Page Speed is a ranking factor, for sure. But it is one of the 200 ranking factors.

Google looks at your post and thinks. This article is great. All the content my researcher is looking for is there. But unfortunately, it takes six seconds to load, so let us ignore it.

This never happens.

So this is not the ultimate ranking factor that will ruin the efforts you made in other factors. You should try to make your website as fast as you can. But it does not mean you have to forcibly eclipse all other factors.

If you have good backlinks and great content, they will also help you a lot in ranking. Keep reading to find how.

Pagespeed Insights Analysis

Here are a few websites, from a variety of niches. To check the correlation between 3 factors, we tested these websites from two tools. One is definitely, PageSpeed Insights and the other is WebPageTest. The factors, whose correlation was to be examined were WebPageTest Page Speed, PageSpeed Insights, and rank.

Please note that all of these websites were made on WordPress. There are many websites with great Page Speed score and optimal loading time, but it is not WordPress that empowers them. The platforms matter a lot.

The purpose of this study is not to undermine the importance of Page Speed, at any cost. The intention is to minimize the obsession with the Page Speed score, which is very common today. Writing quality content, proper keyword analysis, and competitive backlinks should not be compromised at any cost.

Entire SEO puzzle has to be solved, rather than obsessing with one piece.

For privacy purposes, the names and links of websites are not shared.

Website 1: Food Blog

Despite a horrible load time and Insight score, this website enjoys massive traffic. Let us see what great properties make this happen.

The website ranks for an estimated 186,000 keywords. While 4,700 of them are in the top five positions. The total number of backlinks is greater than 1,000. Even though PageSpeed Insights Scores are 17 mobile and 32 desktop.

As per WebPageTest, the load time is 14 seconds. Just imagine the website that takes a complete fourteen seconds to load. Yet it is killing it in search.

Strong backlink profile and quality content have made it possible in conjunction with well-researched keywords. Horrible page speed could not shadow all these great characteristics.

Website 2: Pet Blog

Miserable load time failed to hinder the success of this blog.

The blog ranks for an estimated 101,000 keywords, whereas 2,900 of them enjoy the top five positions. Backlinks are more than 900.

Shockingly, this great website takes seven seconds to load, as per WebPage Test. Google Pagespeed Insights score is 18 for mobile and 40 for desktop.

With good keyword optimization, content optimization, and backlinks this website is enjoying heavy traffic, even though speed is so low.

Website 3: Marketing Website & Blog

Pagespeed Insights score is not so great, yet the speed is great.

The blog ranks for an estimated 1 million keywords, whereas 2,900 of them enjoy the top five positions. Backlinks cross the 66,000 digits.

65 for mobile and 97 for desktop. These are the Google Pagespeed Insights scores. But with the help of the WebPage Test, it turns out that the website takes just 2.7 seconds to load.

This should be enough proof that Google Pagespeed Insights scores should not be overemphasized. They are average in this example, still, we see that load time is perfectly acceptable.

Issues highlighted by Google PageSpeed Insights

Eliminate render-blocking Sources - Some CSS and JS files can be redone to be deferred or asynchronized. Ensure that text remains visible - This is one of the bigger issues being reported. Though it is not something most people are dealing with. Many of us pull their fonts from Google, and right now there is no way to address this issue with Google Font library.
The solution is to add the fonts directly to your website or use webfont.js, but for both you need developers.

Website 4: SEO Company

Insights score is seriously low. The load time is also very low.

Yet the website ranks for an estimated 13,000 keywords, whereas 423 of them enjoy the top five positions. Backlinks are more than 4000.

25 mobile and 58 desktop are the Google Pagespeed Insight scores. A document takes complete 6.5 seconds to load, as per WebPage test.

Doesn’t that sound ironic? An SEO company with slow speed.

Let us tell you that they still rank well when it comes to the most basic SEO terms in Google. Horrible parameters mentioned above have zero value when it comes to SEO rankings.

Website 5: Conversion Testing Software

Fairly fast loading, despite pathetic insights score. The blog ranks for an estimated 44000 keywords, whereas 1500 of them enjoy the top five positions. Backlinks are more than 13000.

Pagespeed Insights scores are as deplorable as 7 mobile and 48 desktop. WebPage test load time is still not more than four seconds. Imagine how much disguising the Google Pagespeed insights score is.

Website 6: Lifestyle Over 40 Blogger

Incredible ranking with disappointing Google Pagespeed Insights score.

This lifestyle blog ranks for an estimated 52000 keywords, and 3700 of them enjoy the top five positions. Backlinks are more than 1000 in number.

Here is how bad it scores. WebPage test load time is 14 seconds. Pagespeed insights scores are 16 mobile and 45 desktop.

Website 7: Mommy Blogger

The website is continuously growing in organic rank and gets a whole lot of visitors every day. Load time is satisfactory but Pagespeed insight scores are not.

This lifestyle blog ranks for an estimated one million keywords, and 28,400 of them enjoy the top five positions. Backlinks of Mommy blogger exceed 16000, in quantity.

One of the best examples, so far. The page takes nearly five seconds to load, despite insights score as low as ridiculous as 30 mobile and 25 desktop.

Website 8: Hosting Company ( WP Engine )

This has to be included to make a point. Even the companies who sell their services based on Pagespeed, do not score well in Google’s Pagespeed Insights. The document completes in 4.8 seconds.

Whereas, 34 mobile and 72 desktop is Insights score.

Website 9: Hosting Company ( GetFlyWheel )

Yes, it is a hosting company once again. This time, it is GetFlyWheel. The one that has great reviews and promotes page speed in its marketing campaigns.

Well, their insights scores are 21 mobile and 68 desktop. And the time to document complete is 6.2 seconds.

Now, hopefully, you have found the answer to the question asked in the beginnings. Google Pagespeed Insights in today’s world is getting more important than it actually should be.

The same is the recommendation of WPRocket. The company is known for speed optimization. They do not want you to stress over Pagespeed Insights score.

Hosting: Biggest Speed Issue

That is what causes low scores on Pagespeed insights as well as other tools. For example, GTMetrix and WebPageTest. Your score will be bad always, no matter how many other things you successfully fix.

If you are suffering from speed issues, changing the host would be the first and foremost recommendation of all SEO companies. Especially when there are no other reasons. You try but can not find one.

What is Pagespeed Insights Good For?

There are many things.

Using it to look at meaningless scores is not wise. What is wise, is to review it to see areas where there is room for improvement.

Eliminate Render-blocking Resources - Files like CSS and JS block your page from loading fast, most of the time. In most cases, deferring them to footers would suffice. Get rid of unused CSS - This is a tricky and sensitive duty. Slight mismanagement can break your website. There might be any CSS that is not being called or called too early in the page load. For example, footer specific CSS. The solution is to separate your CSS into different files, serve them up differently. This would increase page speed and score as well.

Reduce Server Response Times - That is how fast your server is sending a response for Google to deliver the page. Your code, host, plugins and so many things can damage it.

Serve images in next generation formats - Many people are not familiar with this yet. Few plugins can help you do it.

Encode Images - Better optimization or compression techniques can help you do this. When images are lightweight, speed goes high.

The Page Speed When Google Penalizes

There is no exact speed that acts as a trigger, and you lose your rank. Here are Google’s own words from July 2018 Speed Update.

‘The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.’

Summing Up

Finally, we know that Google PageSpeed Insights is an overhyped criterion. We saw nearly a dozen websites that are doing very well, in everything. Even though they have failed to score well in Google PageSpeed Insights.

These websites have gained fame with the help of their quality content, well-researched keywords, and a huge volume of backlinks.

It will not be unwise to say that page speed is not the sole criterion for the performance of a website. The holistic picture of Search Engine Optimization has many other well-defined components. It is not all about speed.

Do not frown if you score low. Rather work on the areas where it tells you to focus. Also keep working on content and backlinks. Know your other priorities.

Hence, Google PageSpeed Insights does not deserve the special importance that webmasters are giving it, these days. To be more specific, speed is not everything, for the World Wide Web.

Further reading

You can read more about Google PageSpeed Insights best practices here.

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