Site Speed: What SEOs Need to Know

by | Oct 30, 2019

In a special edition of #AskGoogleWebmasters, John Muller is joined by Martin Splitt, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, to discuss questions around site speed and SEO.

The two reviewed user-submitted questions via Twitter using the hashtag #AskGoogleWebmasters.

The first question posed was:

What is the ideal page speed of any content for better ranking on the SERP?

Martin replied by saying:

“Basically we are categorizing pages more or less, as like really good and pretty bad, so there’s not really a threshold in between.” 

John continued to elaborate by explaining that both field data and lab data is used to calculate a site’s speed but ultimately, neither Martin nor John gave a specific ideal page speed for improving ranking and instead Martin offered a straight-forward, yet still mildly cryptic suggestion by simply saying: 

“Just make sites fast for users.”

Main takeaway: The faster your site, the better. Focus on UX.

If a website’s mobile speed using the Test My Site tool is good and GTmetrix report scores are high, how important are high Google PageSpeed Insights scores for SEO?

John started off by reminding everyone that:

“We have multiple tools that measure multiple things.”

Martin continued to explain:

“In general these tools measure things in slightly different ways so what I usually recommend is taking these different tools, getting the data you get back from that, and using them to discover, kind of, low hanging fruit on your web pages. So things you can easily improve to really give your page a speed bump.”

Main takeaway: Each tool measures different things differently so it’s best to identify what you’re trying to improve and choose the right tools for the job or use a mix of tools and then utilize that collective data.

I am testing an almost empty page on #devtools Audits (v5.1.0) it usually gives minimum results which 0.8ms for everything and 20ms for FID but sometimes it gives worse results in TTI, FCI and FID. Same page, same code. Why?

Martin answered by saying:

“Well first things first, these measurements aren’t perfect right. So if it’s between 0.8ms and 20ms – 20ms is a lot more than 0.8 but it’s still quite a short amount of time when you think about it.”

“Don’t get too hung up on these metrics specifically. If you see that there’s a perceptible problem and there’s actually like, an issue that your site stays, like working on the main thread and doing CPU work for a minute or 20 seconds, that’s what you want to investigate. If its 20ms, it’s probably fine.”

Main takeaway: There’s no need to focus so much on micro improvements as these won’t amount to any significant changes to your site speed.

What is the best metric(s) to look at when deciding if page speed is “good” or not? Why/why not should we focus on metrics like FCP/FMP instead of scores given by tools like PageSpeed insights?

Martin started off with the classic “It depends” answer.

“It depends on the site and the site content.”

“If you have just a website where people are reading your content and not interacting as much, then I think FMP or FCP is probably more important than FID or TTI but if its a really interactive web application where you want people to immediately jump in and do something, then probably that metric is more important.”

In regards to the page speed score, basically, it was explained as giving you a semi-rough view of your overall page speed but implying this is more of a generalization or summary of all the involved factors.

Martin went on to elaborate further on this when he said:

“I would say use that (page speed score) to figure out how you’re roughly doing and then use the specific insights that the different tools give you to figure out where you have to improve or what isn’t going so well.”

John chimed in to say:

“You kind of have to know what you’re measuring so that you can take action on the right things.”

Turning to Martin he asked:

Will this get easier?

Martin replied by saying:

“I guess it will get easier but it will never go to a point where you just have a score that you optimize for and be done with it. It’s such a broad topic that it’s really hard to break that down into one number.”

“Generally speaking, you will still need to go out and do the work of figuring out what matters to you. Your audience, and your website.”

Watch the whole video on YouTube here.

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