Debunking Google PageSpeed Myths
4 min read

Debunking Google PageSpeed Myths

Website performance is an area with few experts and plenty of opinions. As a website owner trying to improve pagespeed, it's common to receive conflicting "expert" opinions, and in some cases even be told that it's not necessary.

I decided to create this guide with extenssive Google documentation to be your true north in such situations.

1. Pagespeed is not a ranking factor (and thus it's not important or pressing to address)

It's true that pagespeed is not a ranking factor at the moment. It will be in May 2021 as part of the search signals for mobile experience. In other words, if you consider a mobile-friendly website important you should also consider pagespeed important.

Search signals for page experience
The core web vitals are part of the pagespeed score

Moreover, websites with high pagespeed are perceived as faster by the user.  There are studies that correlate higher pagespeed scores with better conversions and more purchases on e-commerce websites.

Page loading speed statistics

2. Pagespeed equals good quality code

There are as many definitions of what constitutes good quality code, as there are Google search results for this term. Good code quality is subjective and will vary depending on the strengths and weaknesses of your web developer.

It is true that in most cases hasty development will lead to low pagespeed websites. Especially Wordpress' code can be a mess, with themes that carry a lot of unused boilerplate, excessive plugin use etc.
Still though, these are specific code issues e.g. unused CSS, too many synchronous requests etc., and not just "bad quality code" that can mean anything.

3. Pagespeed doesn't mater, web vitals do

Web Vitals is an initiative by Google to provide unified guidance for quality signals that are essential to delivering a great user experience on the web.

These are the LCP (loading), FID (interactivity) and CLS (visual stability) and Google offers tools and extenssive documentation on how to improve each.

The 3 Web Vitals

The statement that Pagespeed doesn't mater but web vitals do is incorrect, because Pagespeed is a score calculated based on the web vitals.

Moreover, Google mentions in their official documentation that one of the tools to measure the Web Vitals is Pagespeed Insights. There's even a Google app that shows you exactly how the Pagespeed score is calculated based on the Web Vitals and other performance metrics.

4. You need to redesign your website/ theme to achieve good pagespeed results

Design has little to do with pagespeed. In my experience you can achieve 80% of the results with 20% of the actions, and Pagespeed Insights will even tell you which actions these are!

Pagespeed audit opportunities

Some of them may require design adjustments -particularly recommendations from the Chrome User Experience Report. But in my experience this is never as drastic as to require a website redesign.

5. Your GTMetrix Score is good, so why bother with Pagespeed

GTMetrix is a popular website performance analytics tool. It can analyze performance aspects of a website and provide you with a list of recommendations on how to improve it. Unfortunately these audits are very differrent from the Pagespeed audits, which is what Google uses to evaluate performance.

Recognizing this, GTMetrix announced that it will soon undergo a major upgrade that will replace the aging PageSpeed/YSlow libraries with Google’s Lighthouse metrics.

You can imagine Lighthouse as an extenssion of Pagespeed. Whereas PageSpeed is a performance score, and Pagespeed Insights measures the performance metrics only, Lighthouse audits more aspects of a website e.g accessibility using the Chrome User Experience Report.

6. You can improve pagespeed but that will decrease SEO

Needless to say that SEO includes everything about making your website better for your visitors. From content to speed and user experience, Google uses all of these as signals in their ranking algorithms. Experts who would tell you otherwise probably have limited experience in one or many of these areas.

For a comprehensive overview of what exactly is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and what it includes, I recomend The Beginner's Guide to SEO from Moz which is trully excellent.

Mozlow's hierarchy of SEO Needs

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, a page with high pagespeed score is guaranteed to offer a better experience to its visitors. Also, faster websites utilize less resources and have smaller carbon footprints.

I hope this article can help you make the right decisions for your pagespeed optimization. If you'd like my involvement as a technical liaison between you and your development team, or to inquire about my SEO services you can schedule a 30 minute meeting here.