Written by: Jacob Lial

Site speed has been a huge factor these last few years and we have seen the ramifications of a slow site. Many SEOs have relied on Google Pagespeed Insights to gauge our site’s performance, but I believe we shouldn’t just rely on Google’s tool for the whole picture on site speed.

“What? An SEO saying not to soley rely on Google? Is he going to start telling us to “Bing it” too?”

The keyword here is “soley rely”; you need to dig a bit more, simply because other tools offer different tools needed to piece together a holistic analysis. Below is a list of my favorite tools when looking at site speed.  I believe all these tools should be in your utility belt and be utilized whenever you look at site speed for your site or a client – plus they’re free.  

1. Pagespeed Insights

psi

What is it good for?

Yeah yeah, you may have thought the point of this post was to bash PSI. Nope. It’s an awesome starting point. Let’s start by looking at Google’s tool, and then how I like to supplement it (and why). Overall, Pagespeed Insights is also great to use for anything client facing because this tool illustrates what Google itself deems as important.  If you have to answer the client’s question, “Why should I work on how fast my site loads?” pointing to the fact that Google has stated how important it is, made a free tool to test site speed, and returns specific recommendations itself should set the conversation in the right direction.

Need to use other tools to compliment because:

However, it does have a few downsides that I find quite irritating.  It (literally) doesn’t give you the full details. For example, it provides a recommendation to “Remove render-blocking JavaScript” as seen below, without the full resource details.

psi1

It should come as no shock that if something is too long, Google will truncate it with ellipses, but this is something no other tool listed does. It disappoints me that they don’t give you the full path.

2. GTmetrix

GTM

What is it good for?

Yikes! We have some work to do on our site! This tool is by far my favorite. Not only does GTmetrix give you almost everything the other tools provide, it also has very in-depth information. In some cases, it also provides the actual fixes for some issues. This tool has a massive resource library that I recommend to use if you ever need to improve any factor of site speed.

With some factors they even give you the solution:

GTM2

Viewing the optimized version provides a minified version of the file. This can be used to update the original version, allowing you to quickly move onto the next point.

3. Pingdom

pingdom

What is it good for?
Pingdom has more information than what Google’s PageSpeed Insights offers. It shows the load time of the site, its page siz, and how fast or slow your site is compared with all other tested websites. These metrics give a more realistic perspective, showing how you stack up against others.

Need to use other tools to compliment because:

It’s downside, it doesn’t offer much more. Now there is a paid version of their tool but I have yet to test it to see if there are any major differences.  But then again there are other free tools, so let’s continue to explore those.

4. Web Page Test


WPT

This tool is powered by Google!

WHAT2

I used this tool a few times and never realized Google powers Web Page Test until a few months back when checking out there about page. I call it Google’s Dev Tool just based on how they present their findings.

What is it good for?

Web page test gives you similar information as the above tools but also give you a rating for first byte time. First byte time is a key component in site speed (there is a great Moz post that goes in depth into how to improve this component). My second highlight from this tool is its suggestions for progressive JPEGs.

WPT2

Progressive JPEGs are simply images that load blurry to complete and in this example can show a big boost to end users.

I know what you’re thinking, “But Jake, this shows it’s only going to improve the full load speed by .3 seconds. Is this really that important?” My answer is yes. Here’s why:

At 5.2 seconds all of the above-the-fold content is loaded and users will have the impression that it’s fully loaded. A few seconds later the next image in the slider loads and it looks natural, not clunky as the baseline looks while it loads. This example is very specific and performance will vary from site to site but this is something to implement where needed. In the end, we’re looking to speed everything up in aggregate.

Need to use other tools to compliment because: 

Its downfall is its lack of explanation. The tool tells you what is checked and failing, but fails to tell you why it’s important to fix the issues and how it can be done.

Let’s Recap.

“Only 4 tools? Aren’t there plenty more that you should have in this list?”

There are many other tools out there but I feel the combined use of these four will give you the big picture and paths to take in order to correct your issues.  These are what we use, and they’ve been fantastic for communicating to clients the importance of site speed and resolving their issues. We would love to hear about any tools you guys use that we didn’t mention and how they have helped you increase your site speed.

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