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5 Myths About Page Speed

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Many site owners make the mistake of associating a high-performance grade with great site speed. It doesn’t help that there are many myths and misconceptions about page speed.

In reality, if you want to build a fast website, you need to optimize it for SEO, improve its user experience, and increase conversions. All these factors are unaffected by how high your site is graded on a page speed testing tool.

In this post, we’ll debunk common myths prevalent among website owners and go over actionable tips that can help you improve site speed, performance, and user experience.

Measuring website performance

If you’re like most site owners, you probably use popular speed test tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom, and GTMetrix to get a grade that tells you how well your website is performing. These tools also offer some useful recommendations to help you optimize the site performance. And, if you’re using a caching plugin, chances are that you expect to get a perfect grade every time.

However, this site performance report is not accurate and it can be misleading for site owners who aim for a perfect grade.

The truth is that performance grades don’t show you the real picture of your page speed. It is the actual page loading time and CLS score of your website that determines your site speed, performance, and user experience.

In other words, websites that load fast according to GTMetrix or Pingdom may not have a good PageSpeed Score.

Myths page speed NY Times

Examples of big-name websites that have a poor PageSpeed score include NY Times, HBR, and Forbes.

5 myths about page speed debunked

Below, we’ll take a look at some of the commonly held misconceptions when it comes to page speed and do our best to debunk these myths with solid facts.

#1: PageSpeed score is not proportional to the performance of a website

Uninformed website owners may think that a good PageSpeed score doesn’t necessarily mean your website has good performance and you shouldn’t expect proportional enhancements.

Google PageSpeed measures two different SEO ranking factors: user experience and mobile performance.

Mobile page speed has been a direct ranking factor for both Google Ads and Google Search since July 2018 when Google rolled out its Speed Update.

It recently announced a new update to its algorithm that also takes into account the user experience of a page. The Page Experience update will roll out in mid-June 2021 and includes various signals including safe browsing, HTTPS security, mobile-friendliness, intrusive interstitial guidelines, and Core Web Vitals metrics.

Google’s Core Web Vitals is a strong ranking factor as it accounts for 55% of the total PageSpeed score weight and greatly affects the PageSpeed Insights score. In simple words, it deals with how users interact with your site’s pages.

While the Google PageSpeed score is not a ranking factor as a whole, optimizing the Core Web Vitals metrics will go a long way in improving the organic visibility of your website’s search results.

The PageSpeed score simply reflects the overall user experience. The better the overall user experience, the better the website’s performance.

#2: PageSpeed will not affect your SEO rankings

It is true that PageSpeed isn’t a ranking factor as of now but it will become one in August 2021. In addition, it will also be included as a search signal for the mobile experience. This means the PageSpeed of a website is just as important as its mobile-friendliness.

The Core Web Vitals are also factored in the PageSpeed score. In addition to this, most users associate a website’s high PageSpeed with fast load times. Several studies have shown that higher PageSpeed scores correlate with greater conversions and increased purchases on online stores.

#3: My theme slows down my website

This misconception is that poorly coded themes slow down websites and themes that have lots of scripts negatively impact site speed.

While a caching plugin is a useful tool that helps you build fast websites, it is essentially a quick-fix solution for fixing site speed issues. There are a number of other layers on a WordPress site that can be optimized to improve site performance.

Let’s take a look at some of these layers:

Web Hosting

Your website is hosted on a web server so the first thing you need to do is make sure your hosting provider can deliver top speed. A good hosting provider also gives you the tools you need to better manage your site’s resources and improve site performance. You can opt for the one that suits your budget and requirements best.

Number of plugins used and their quality

You can choose to install dozens of high-quality plugins on your site without any performance issues. That said, adding even a single inefficiently-coded plugin on your website can slow your site’s speed.

And if you don’t remove plugins that are slowing down your site, you could leave users frustrated and force them to abandon your website for a faster one. We recommend that you install only those plugins that are known for delivering good performance.

Make sure your theme is optimized

Your theme accounts for a major portion of your website code which means a poorly-coded theme can seriously affect the user experience of your site. Tweaking your theme’s code for enhanced performance is not a simple task so you might need to hire a speed optimization expert to help you.

Most visually appealing and feature-rich themes make websites sluggish because they are weighed down by the theme’s heavy code. We recommend that you disable the features you don’t need to boost site performance. Also, be sure to check out our collection of themes that not only look great but are performance-optimized.

Here’s a Google PageSpeed test of our Foodica theme:

Foodica page speed

#4: You need all types of caching

There’s a common myth about page speed circulating on the internet that there are different types of caching and that all websites need all types of caching.

In reality, there are two types of caching: page caching and database caching. In the absence of caching, when a user opens your website, the server collects and assembles the required page components and content through PHP and sends them to the web browser. The whole process takes up a lot of time and resources.

On the other hand, page caching enables you to create static HTML files of your site’s content. This allows you to deliver content much faster as compared to PHP generating your site’s pages on the fly. This way, your site’s visitors don’t interact with the database and, in many cases, you can use page caching without needing to cache the database at all.

Most sites and blogs don’t require database caching unless they have a highly dynamic website. In other words, where page caching is impractical, database caching would be useful.

If you’re using a managed or shared hosting platform, your hosting provider might restrict you from using certain forms of caching at the server level. However, you can still implement page caching using a good WordPress plugin like WP Rocket and this is something that the average site owner can do on their own.

#5: You need to use a CDN

Many site owners consider CDNs necessary for their websites. However, you should only use a CDN if it adds valuable speed gains to your website.

CDNs enable you to serve assets such as images, file attachments, and JavaScript and CSS files to your site’s visitors from the location closest to them, helping you reduce latency.

For those unfamiliar, latency refers to the time taken by a server to fulfill a user’s request. A user located further away from the server will experience higher latency as compared to a user located in close proximity to the physical server. This can negatively impact your PageSpeed Insights score, especially if your audience is distributed across the globe.

A CDN allows you to solve this problem by serving content from the nearest point to the site visitor. However, as the CDN is an external server, the web browser needs to perform a DNS lookup to connect with that external server. It takes about 200ms to complete each lookup.

We recommend that you check to ensure that the speed gained by using the CDN is more than the DNS lookup and resolution time. Also, if you sell products locally, you likely won’t experience any speed improvements by using a CDN. This is because your site’s visitors are located in the same city rather than across the country or globe.

Myths about page speed, debunked

We discussed different myths and misconceptions site owners have regarding page speed and debunked them. Knowing facts from fiction will help you allocate your time and resources to truly important things. This way, you’ll be able to improve your website’s speed and performance.

Let’s recap the main points we discussed in this article:

  • Your website’s PageSpeed score reflects the overall user experience. The better the overall user experience, the better the website’s performance.
  • PageSpeed is not a ranking factor now but it will be in August 2021.
  • Most site owners blame poorly coded themes and lots of scripts for slow site speed. However, your hosting provider, the plugins you use, and their quality, as well as theme optimization impacts your page speed.
  • Not all websites need all types of caching.
  • You should use a CDN only if it can offer any valuable site speed gains.

Do you know any other page speed myths? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below.

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