Hey everyone! As you know, we’ve recently been making some big pushes toward improving page speed on our platform. Because of that, I wanted to talk quickly about why page speed scores are important, but also the ways that it’s often misunderstood – and even the ways that Google lies to you about it.
Page speed scores, as I’m sure you know, are just an approximation of how quickly your site loads. This is obviously important for giving customers the best experience possible - no one wants to wait for a slow website. And site speed does affect SEO, because Google will rank sites with a healthy bounce rate, more time spent on the site, and higher page interaction better. Faster websites tend to do better in all of these metrics.
All that said: the Google page speed score itself has no influence on your website’s ranking. If the bounce rate is healthy (Katie will be talking more about bounce rate in her post on Monday) and people are browsing your site a lot, having a low page speed score won’t keep your site from ranking well. This gets into some of the downsides of the metric: it’s not always perfect at predicting how fast or how good a site actually feels to use. Because websites can be built so many ways, Google can’t always perfectly analyze how the load time will translate to user experience. So while the page speed score is important, it’s also worth taking with a grain of salt.
Then, we have the ways that Google embellishes the page speed recommendations. Here’s one example: you’ve likely seen Google recommend that you serve images in “next-gen formats,” and that doing so can save 30, even 45 seconds on page load. A quick sanity check will tell us that, on a page that only takes 15 seconds to load completely, nothing can actually save us 30 seconds of page loading. What’s happening here is that the next-gen image format they’re talking about, WebP, was actually developed by Google. And in fairness to them, it is a great format. Optimally compressed WebP images can be about 30% smaller than JPEG images with the same image quality. Google, however, doesn’t only want you to use it because it’s faster; they want you to use it because they want to develop and control the technologies that run the internet. By exaggerating certain aspects of page speed and steering you toward their own solution, they can do exactly that.
So when looking at your page speed, keep these things in mind. This isn’t to say that a low page speed score is okay – you always want to make your site as enjoyable as possible for users to browse. But do remember that page speed is simply one predictor for the actual metrics that determine your search ranking, rather than a tool for ranking in itself. If you have more questions about this, feel free to put them in the comments, and if you have suggestions for more dev dives, let me know!