Fear-based marketing tactics are based on an underlying observation that consumers are genuinely afraid of missing out. We see marketers in our industry deploy this tactic by finding and picking on a negative performance indicator relating to the digital presence of businesses. One such classic indicator is Google PageSpeed that you can check for any website with a free tool called Google PageSpeed Insight.
Have you ever been contacted by someone telling you that your website has a serious issue based on a low Google Site Score?
Should You Be Worried About A Low Score?
It is a tool by Google, and that must mean it is important. After all, a big objective for a lot of businesses is to have their website appear in top search results on Google. And if Google says your website has a low score, it sounds like a problem.
Imagine that your business has been working with a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist/agency for a few years. As a business owner, you are a specialist in your industry, but you may hardly understand what SEO is. If you are seeing a positive trend in website traffic, leads, and sales, then you believe that the SEO strategy is working well.
But then you get this message in your inbox that shows that your Google site score is terrible. What would that make you start thinking? Would you start thinking that your SEO plan is failing? Or that you are not getting value for what you are investing in? Could it be that the young punk, dressed like a geek with a computer is scamming you?
Visit the Google PageSpeed Insights page and analyze your business website. Got a low score? Does that concern you? If the answer to the last 2 questions is ‘yes’, then you must read this blog post, because before you break a sweat, you need more context on Google and how it ranks your business.
How Does Google PageSpeed Score Affect Search Engine Rankings: Putting Things In Perspective
The reason to worry is that your competitors could outrank you if they have better PageSpeed scores. If your competitors outrank you on search engine result pages (SERP), then they will eat into your market share. So the real question is, how does Google PageSpeed score affect your search engine rankings?
The Google search algorithm literally takes 100’s of factors into consideration when deciding which businesses will rank on what position on SERP for any search query. One such factor is website speed. How influential is site speed in the algorithm?
Let’s find out by analyzing the Google PageSpeed grades of businesses who are known to take their website and digital marketing seriously -
As you can see, all of these websites have a terrible PageSpeed score. Heck, even Moz, which is one of the top SEO educational websites, does not have a very impressive score on mobile.
The truth of the matter is that PageSpeed insights need to be taken with a grain of salt. It is one of 100’s of ranking factors. The top companies, who employ the best SEO specialists, are not too concerned about low grades on Google PageSpeed Insights.
What Is Website Speed, And Is It Important?
In basic language, when a user enters a website URL (e.g. www.amazon.com) on their browser (e.g. Chrome/Firefox/Safari), the browser sends a request to access files from the server where the website is hosted (e.g. WP Engine/GoDaddy, etc.)
The server verifies a few permissions and then shares the files with the users browser. The server, the size of the files, the distance of the user from the server, and the speed of the users internet connection will all influence how fast the content on the website will load.
A slow load speed has a negative effect on user experience, which increases the bounce rate and decreases engagement and conversions. Google wants users to have a good experience.
It meets this objective by serving the most relevant search results and ranking websites that users will have the best time interacting with. Since slower speeds create a negative user experience, website speed is one of the ranking factors in the Google search algorithm.
So speed is important, but the measurement of speed gets complicated. Measuring website speed is not a standardized process. It depends on what exactly are you trying to measure, how exactly are you trying to measure it, and where are you measuring it from.
What Exactly Are You Measuring?
Within website speed, there are different things that can be measured - e.g. ‘page load time’, ‘time to first byte’, 'first meaningful paint (FMP)' etc.
How Exactly Are You Trying To Measure It?
Different tools can be used to measure speed, with each tool using a slightly different formula - e.g. Google PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, Pingdom
Where Are You Measuring It From?
The testing location also makes a difference. Google uses your current geographic location as the testing location, GTmetrix uses Vancouver, Canada as the default testing location, and Pingdom allows users to choose from about 70 different testing location
It’s like measuring your weight but seeing a different result on every weighing machine.
What Does Google PageSpeed Insights Measure?
A website is a combination of scripts, codes, text, images, and files. When a website loads, the scripts and codes determine how the content will be displayed on different devices before displaying text, images, and videos.
After the visual content is loaded, there is additional code like SCHEMA which tells the search engines what the website is about in a technical language.
The Google PageSpeed measurements tool breaks the overall load time into various key performance indicators - e.g. how fast did the first bit of content load; how long did it take to load all the content and answer the search query; how long did it take to load the entire page including all the codes that do not affect user experience. All of these affect whether a user perceives a website loading as "fast" or "slow", so it’s important to measure the different metrics independently.
Google PageSpeed Insights rates each of these metrics and compares them to the top-performing websites. Then, a weighted average method of calculation is used to determine the overall ‘Performance Score’.
That is the score that you see as a result of all these calculations.
Will Low Grades Affect My Search Rankings?
The correct answer is - ‘it depends’
When it comes to ranking on search results, the main thing that concerns Google is user experience. Google will rank websites based on how well it sees a site fulfilling the intent of the user based on the users search query. And if multiple websites can offer the answer that the user is looking for, then the website that offers a better user experience will rank higher.
Not all the metrics that are used in calculating Google PageSpeed Insights impact user experience equally.
A website might be loading content really fast, creating a great user experience, but might have a lot of scripts and codes in the backend that make the overall website load time slow. This might give it a low overall Google Page Speed ‘Performance Score’ but it’s search rankings might be great.
Another website might be really good at firing all the back-end codes really fast, but it’s content loads really slowly because it is not optimized. This will make the website score high on certain metrics that are irrelevant to users, pushing the overall ‘Performance Score’ grade high, even though the user experience is poor. Such a website is less likely to rank well on search results.
That is why, ‘Performance Score’ results displayed by Google PageSpeed Insight can be a misleading indicator, without greater context.
A ‘Quick’ Conclusion
For search rankings, a combination of different factors, with varying degrees of importance drives the results that are desired. Google PageSpeed is an important factor and Google PageSpeed Insights is a good measurement tool. However, to drive desired results, such indicators can not be viewed in isolation, because context is everything.
Search experts at ElementIQ are trained to analyze various metrics that determine performance scores, and analyze many other elements that collectively influence user experience and search rankings. Contact us to evaluate how well you are positioned in the digital space to meet your business objectives. Together, we can assess what should be improved and ignored.