How to test and optimize your website speed using GTmetrix
A website’s page loading speed has a significant impact on user experience. Users do not think twice before abandoning websites that take eons to load. A study suggests that 40 percent of users abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Clearly, every second count.
At Maze, in order to ensure our websites perform flawlessly which makes an essential part of our SEO services, we use GTmetrix.
GTmetrix: An introduction
GTmetrix includes a suite of tools that can be used to analyze a website. The free version of the tool includes basic features. To unlock advanced features, businesses with multiple websites and digital advertising companies that can benefit from faster analysis can opt for tiered paid plans.
GTmetrix provides useful information related to a website’s performance such as the loading speeds of different pages and user requests. Users can also compare their website’s performance with the performance of other websites that are analyzed using GTmetrix. The tool generates easy-to-consume data in the form of informative graphs and charts.
There are various test formats that can be used to analyze a website’s performance from seven different test regions. Paid versions also have advanced options that help users conduct an in-depth performance analysis of their websites.
PageSpeed and YSlow scores
GTmetrix averages your website’s Google PageSpeed (a tool by Google that analyzes a website’s performance in terms of its speed for both desktop and mobile devices) and Slow score by Yahoo. Based on its score, your website is provided a grade. Arrows indicate your website’s relative performance versus other websites analyzed using Gtmetrix, helping you find out where your website stands. You also get recommendations on how to improve your website’s performance.
Benefits of using the two tools and how to evaluate results
PageSpeed and YSlow are identical tools. Both these tools aim to provide users the same type of data; however, they use different methodologies. It is possible that an important loophole missed by one tool is caught by another. By providing results by both the tools at one place, GTmetrix helps you develop multiple perspectives and arrive at more informed decisions.
If you get a lower rank than your expectations, do not consider it as the end of the world. Do not provide too much importance to rankings by the two tools. Instead, use them as a stepping stone to finding new opportunities to optimize your website. Your ultimate focus should be to improve your website’s load time.
Analyzing your website
When it comes to analyzing your website’s performance, conducting a single speed test won’t get you anywhere. To get reliable results, you need to perform multiple tests at different times of the day, week, and if required, month.
Users with a paid account can use the history tab to check out the results of their past tests. Additionally, users can use the feature to find out how their websites were performing after a certain feature was implemented or a process adopted. Users can take a look at when their websites were performing the best and how the load speed has improved over time.
In addition to providing important information related to page load speed, GTmetrix helps to find out the time of the day when maximum users visit your website. You can use this information to decide the best time to add content or advertisements.
Local vs. global speed tests
One of the main factors impacting your website’s speed is the distance between your location and the place where your server is located. To help you get the most relevant results, GTmetrix allows you to perform tests from different locations. You can either choose to perform a global or local test.
A local test is more suitable for companies with a local footprint (operating within a city, state or country). If, however, you want to compare your results with other websites, perform a global test. When performing a global test, select at least one server from each continent. It is worth noting here that the speed test tool will determine your page load speed relative to your server’s location.
Test different pages, not just your homepage
If your website, like most other sites, does not have much content on its homepage, consider testing different sub-pages such as your blog section and single product pages. Remember, a majority of visitors to your website won’t spend much time on your homepage and will visit other pages to get the information that they are seeking.
How to use the Waterfall tool
The Waterfall tool provides important data, helping you figure out why your website is loading slow. The tool helps break down the journey of a page from the server to the user. The idea behind capturing each step is to help you determine the steps that are causing a bottleneck. If for instance, your page takes too much time to download, there are good chances that the website is not properly optimized.
Tips to improve your website’s page load speed
1. Investigate your server setup
If you are using shared hosting, consider switching to a dedicated one. For WordPress websites, use a server optimized for WordPress.
2. Optimize your images
According to HTTP Archive, as of November 2018, images make up on average 21% of a total webpage’s weight. So when it comes to optimizing your site, after video content, images are by far the first place you should start!
That being said, search engines hates slow sites and lately Google has been pushing webp more and more on us. According to Google:
WebP is a modern image format that provides superior lossless and lossy compression for images on the web. Using WebP, webmasters and web developers can create smaller, richer images that make the web faster. WebP lossless images are 26% smaller in size compared to PNGs
So, in short, you should try serving your optimized images in the webp format. To do so you can use:
- A CDN like cloudflare.com
- mod_pagespeed developed by google – which works on apache and nginx (need server configuration)
- A third party tool like shortpixel.com
3. Minify your code
4. Enable gzip compression
Reduce the size of files sent from your server to increase the speed to which they are transferred to the browser.
5. Serve resources from a consistent URL
It’s important to serve a resource from a unique URL (ex: https://www.wearemaze.com), to eliminate duplicate download bytes and additional RTTs.
6. Combine images using CSS sprites
Combining images into as few files as possible using CSS sprites reduces the number of round-trips and delays in downloading other resources, reduces request overhead, and can reduce the total number of bytes downloaded by a web page.
Optimizing your website speed is an essential first step for a better search engine presence.