Fuck PageSpeed

Profanity warning: I’m fucking fuming.

(Spoiler: Shortlist for testing load times down there.)

As customer support rep for a popular WordPress caching plugin (not linked in order to not harm my employer by language used here), I see people losing their shit about not scoring high enough in Google’s PageSpeed shit show on a daily basis.

It’s excruciating.

If tools like PageSpeed Insights or Test my Site with Google required a developer login, so they got used by people who actually know how to read those darn arbitrary, entirely context-lacking results, and still make good use of them.

But not Google, no. Google has its tool scan your real life problems and generate replies from a pre-defined catalogue of a dozen items you have either succeeded, or failed against.

And because Google is the same Google whose search algorithm separates winners from losers, people think a low PageSpeed score will make their lovely website rank bad.

IT!!! DOES!!! NOT!!! FOR!!! FUCKING!!! FUCK’S!!! SAKE!!!

At Google they’re actually smart enough to not have their own random commentary on your opus optimized-by-blood-sweat-and-tears have any relevance for your ranking.

Yes, your website should be fully responsive, ideally “mobile-first”. But that’s it. Render-blocking shit won’t do any harm to your ranking, nor will missing browser caching on Google’s own servers. (Have you noticed they actually ask you to turn on browser caching on their own servers? It’s hilarious!)

Yet, Google has the nerve to keep calling their monster “PageSpeed Insights”—as if actual speed (i.e. load time) had anything to do with it.

PageSpeed doesn’t even measure fucking load times!

(And it doesn’t for good reason, but that’s an entirely different story that won’t help you come to grips with performance.)

If you don’t fully understand how to read and hack code in order to please Google, here’s a quick way for you to check how your website is doing for your visitors:

Testing your WordPress website’s performance

  • Go to Pingdom Tools.
    (Developers, shut it now! You may know better, but not everyone can make sense of WebPagetest.)
  • Enter the URL of your front page.
    If it’s HTTPS, enter https://.
    If it is www, enter www.
    Best you copy-paste it from the browser’s address line.
  • Pick—this is important!—a location nearest to your most likely audience for “Test from”.
    If your site speaks any other European language than English, Pingdom currently offers you a testing location from Sweden. Pick that. UK, you too.
    If you’re in the Americas, pick an appropriate location near you from there.
    If you’re elsewhere in the world, you’re in bad luck at Pingdom, but just pick anything approximately near (like, for Indonesia try Melbourne).
  • Run the test.
    Then run it again, from the same location.
    And again.
  • Look at the load time.
    Don’t look at the “Performance grade”, it’s generated via PageSpeed’s API, screw it.
    Look at load time only for now.

✅  If your website is a self-configured, self-hosted WordPress site with a purchased theme and anything up from 5 active plugins, and load time is below 2 seconds, rejoice. 👍
If it is below 1.5 seconds, cheer loudly, grab a cold beverage, and celebrate! 🍻
If it is below 1 second, songs will be sung about you. 👑

🚫  If load time is above 2 seconds, scroll down the Pingdom page, sort that “File requests” chart by “Load time”, and get ready to deactivate or replace some plugins (or a theme) that may send costly external requests to slow-performing services. (Hello, Finstabook!)

There you go. Free performance optimization advice: Unless you’re a developer who actually knows how to “eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content”—fuck PageSpeed, test load times.

24 thoughts on “Fuck PageSpeed

  1. Well then I´m more than happy to listen to the many songs that will be sung ´cuz I´m at 600ms even with a purchased theme an 5+ plugins. Freakin´awesome. Thanks to your employer 😉

  2. Morning Caspar,

    I just pray that Joe Bloggs WordPress user is reading this post too. There is so much confusion out there regarding what data PageSpeed does and does not provide.

    However, even though I’m not a developer, I must say that in our experience at RAIDBOXES Webpagetest.org is the better choice for testing a website’s speed. Especially due to the “Visual Comparison” functionality => https://www.webpagetest.org/video/

    If you want to determine how fast a website loads, you will need a point of orientation. That can be a fix value like 2.0 or 1.5 secs. Or it can be a before-optimization-version of a website, a competitor’s website or an internal benchmark. In such cases Webpagetest can provide very neat and vivid data.

    Of course, I must admit that if you are using Webpagetest for the first time, it will be a little bit of pain learning the vocabulary (i.e. visually complete, document complete etc). But once you did this Webpagetest will deliver better data than pingdom.

    Anyhow, great post and I really hope, that the average user will become more aware of this issue 🙂

    Cheers from Münster and have a great week!

    • Hey Jan, appreciate the comment! Once a person is ready to invest the time to learn how to use any of these tools effectively, the problem actually vaporizes. When used appropriately, a tool like PageSpeed Insights can provide value even when its results aren’t as detailed as WebPagetest.

      The people I’m worried about, though, aren’t those who’ll take the time learning, but those who—for whatever possible reason—don’t understand there actually is something to learn in the first place. That type of person (DIY site owners mostly) will make assumptions like the ones roughly outlined in the post above (“Google = ranking” and “less than 100% = bad”), often to wind up wasting hours or days with chasing a “performance grade”, while their website already performs as decent as a self-configured WordPress site will get.

      Google themselves fuel those false assumptions, in my opinion, by referring to their product’s rating system as “speed”.

  3. Great article! There is only one disadvantage with using Pingdom though, and that’s the limited number of locations to test from. My website, hosted in Amsterdam, needs to be tested from Stockholm., It is nearest, but it costs some extra ms delay.

    Try webpagetest.org instead.

  4. Thank you Caspar. This post is bookmarked and will be sent in reply to every client who forwards an email from their “SEO agency” complaining about this exact issue.

  5. I know which cache plugin you work for. It is THE best. Thank you for this post, I will share!

  6. If you get really mad get some laughter therapy by plugging the You Tube URL into Pagespeed and seeing the results 😉

  7. I absolutely hate that tool, and people just don’t get it. Worse yet, there are SEO’s out there sending clients to it like it has some value beyond the pretty colors and grades. Thanks for getting the word out!

    • @Richard Yep, you’re outta luck there, but you can still compare results against results from the same location – even if the closest one available is half around the globe. Like LazyLoad versus no LazyLoad, page caching versus memcached, Varnish versus page caching etc. Load time results may not be as realistic for your local audience, but you can still get a basic idea of relative speed gains.

  8. Thanks Caspar!
    Bookmarked and already shared a couple of times. Lovely you found exactly the right words to describe my feelings about this 😉

  9. Seriously?
    Check this test. It captures screenshots of how site loads in browser.
    webpagetest org/video/compare.php?tests=170212_P6_GPZ-r:1-c:0
    According to that test, your site starts rendering page only at 1.3 sec, which is not even close to 500ms. And that is what Google unhappy about.

    If you would have listened to Google PageSpeed advices and removed those blocking css and js, you could pump up your site to start page render at 500-600 ms and your google PageSpeed score could jump to 99-100.

    If to run test with bandwidth shaped to 3G connection, page render will start only at 3.5 seconds. If you’ve followed Google PageSpeed advice, it could start about 1.5-1.6 sec.

    For such a light site as yours this is not what you need to worry about. It is quite fast, WP Rocket plugin does good job here.
    But it can happen that some other user would read your article, and will treat Google PageSpeed advices as something not worth following.
    So, to my mind, telling that Google PageSpeed is total crap is not quite correct.

  10. That render blocking java script stuff has been giving me a headache, to me java is a type of coffee and I’ve no idea what render blocking is. So thank you! I’ll stop banging my head against the wall and just work on getting my load speed below 2 seconds.

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