Practically overnight, some companies saw their healthy PageSpeed Insights change to a wildly different Google Speed Score. Here’s what the change means and what you can do to turn it into an opportunity for your site.
If this happened to you, don’t panic, your score didn’t technically drop. It’s an updated scoring method, more closely aligned with what Google understands the web should strive for.
The new scoring method is less forgiving than the old Page Speed Optimization Score (sometimes referred to as PSI score). If your new score is low, that illustrates a new competitive opportunity to soar above the competition, because everyone else saw their scores “drop” too. New frontiers, new horizons, new opportunities.
The Google Speed Score is a new set of measurements. They are intentionally strict and intentionally punishing to wake you up to what consumers want. It’s going to require some painful decisions. But, in the end, your company will benefit.
As a case study, we took a look at 10 randomly selected Fortune 500 companies and high-performance e-commerce sites and averaged the score. These were all nationally known brands with strong eCommerce presence. Here’s what we found:
Ten of the highest performing companies in the world when it comes to eCommerce now have a performance score of just 35%. This is one of the greatest times of opportunity for sites to rebuild and refocus their strategies and leap their way right to the top of Google’s rankings.
Here’s a guide on how the new Google Speed Score works:
What the Google Speed Score Means
Google’s PageSpeed report is powered by Lighthouse. Lighthouse is a speed tool that Google pairs with CrUX (Chrome User Experience report) to provide a much clearer picture of your page speed.
Your speed score appears in the top left-hand corner of the screen in a numerical rating from 0-100. It’s color-coded. Green is good. Orange means you have some work to do. Red tells you that your page needs to get a heck of a lot faster.
There are a number of data metrics you can explore like First Contentful Paint, or First Input Delay. But, most importantly, there’s a list of recommended fixes to improve your Google Speed Score.
However, those aren’t the biggest changes in this update. Now, instead of building the score around optimizations, it’s based on speed. Optimization is a factor, but, the main driver is speed, speed, speed.
The Google Speed Score runs for both mobile and desktop. You also get the score for both at the same time. Some companies might find themselves with a great desktop speed score and an abysmal mobile speed. Today, Google focuses on UX. More and more users want a fast page load for whatever device they use for searching.
What you can Start to do About it
Above all, put your website on a diet. Cut out every page element you don’t need, and optimize everything you do need. One of the most impactful things you can do is to set a performance budget. (We’ll talk about that a bit more below).
Websites keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. This is partly because companies are adding content in order to drive traffic to their site.
But, what content you create and where it lands on your site counts more than feverishly adding pages. It’s like the bodybuilder who eats anything and everything to gain muscle.
What you eat and when you eat and HOW MUCH you eat is what counts. Also, as we all know, overeating can become a habit. It’s much the same way with adding content. The best way to curb that is to put yourself on a diet.
Think of it this way: adding content to a site is like swiping your credit card. At the time it feels like nothing, but you’re really just adding to the bill you’ll pay for later.
Read More: Everything New about Google Search Console
Performance budgets is a Google-branded term. Here’s Google’s definition:
“A performance budget is a set of limits imposed on metrics that affect site performance. This could be the total size of a page, the time it takes to load on a mobile network, or even the number of HTTP requests that are sent. Defining a budget helps get the web performance conversation started. It serves as a point of reference for making decisions about design, technology, and adding features.”
At Edgy Labs, we have been calling this Emission Standards. Same thing.
It’s exactly like any other budget you make in your life. You go to the Renaissance Fair and you really like that wooden sword. You sort of need to buy it. But that wooden sword costs more than you have in your wallet. If you can’t afford it, you are not allowed to go home with that sword.
Maybe you’re trying to ship 20mb of images, but your performance budget is only 1mb per image. In short, this means you’ve exceeded your performance budget.
How to cut the fat
The Google tool Lighthouse CI has a way for you to integrate a production pipeline into your deployments. This means that if you are about to integrate a new version of your page, you can build in a command to scan your new page on the staging server to analyze.
This will measure how it’s performing. In the deployment process, it will say “failed the performance budget test”. You can set performance budgets for practically anything, from page speeds to image use.
It’s imperative that your company analyzes your site and sets achievable goals. Then, over time, make those goals more demanding. The tighter your budget, the faster your site. The faster your site, the better the experience for your customer. That’s when your Google Speed Score will go green.
This new Page Score is your credit score. If you max out your card or don’t have the money to pay your bills, you put yourself on a budget.
In essence, this pivot by Google focuses on website bloating. Bloat is a big issue for a lot of companies. Nobody wants to downsize, but a leaner site improves speed. Speed directly translate to making more money.
To review, these are the most important things to focus on in your new site’s diet:
- Establish a baseline.
- Add a performance budget and track it.
- Stick to it.
- Keep improving.
- Be leaner.
- Be more efficient.
- Speed improvements.
Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Chrome 70
An Overview of Changes
Google has updated their PageSpeed Insights tool.
From their release notes:
“v5 of the PageSpeed Insights API was released in November 2018. It now uses as its analysis engine and also incorporates field data provided by the (CrUX). v5 of the API will now provide CrUX data and all of the Lighthouse audits. Previous versions of the PSI API will be deprecated in six months.”
According to a release on the Google Webmaster Blog, the data used in the update include:
- PSI fetches and analyzes the page using which simulates how a mobile device loads a page. It computes data sets for the page (such as First Contentful Paint and Time to Interactive). Then, it summarizes these metrics with a performance score from 0-100. Scores are categorized into three levels; 90 and up is considered to be a good score.
- Field Data. PSI also displays real-world performance metrics (First Contentful Paint and First Input Delay) for the page and its origin. (As a result, we’ve also deprecated the origin: query in PSI). Note that not all sites may have field data available for display. The dataset relies on a version of the Chrome User Experience Report that is updated daily and is aggregated over the previous 28 days. Keep in mind that the metrics here may be different from the ones in the Lab Data section as they capture a wide spectrum of real-world network conditions and devices used by Chrome users.
- Opportunities. PSI provides suggestions on how to improve the page’s performance metrics. Each suggestion in this section estimates how much faster the page will load if the improvement is implemented.
- Diagnostics. This section provides additional information about how a page adheres to best practices for web development.
Difficulty Breeds Opportunity
A new Google Speed Score is not the only new tool in your SEO arsenal. Other cool recent updates include:
- A new photo tool called Squoosh. On one side you can see the original image. On the other, you can see the image quality compressed (let’s say 90% smaller). If you don’t see a difference, then you need to ask yourself why you aren’t compressing more. It’s a great tool for any site.
- In the Day 1 Chrome Dev Summit Keynote video – There’s a new video format for the web called AV1. It allows for super, super compressed video without losing quality.
- Web Assembly: a super cool tool that is not new but not yet heavily-used. It allows you to run machine level code for C++ and package it in the browser.
The Changing Internet
Google has planted a flag with this new announcement. Sites need to get lean or be left in the dust by faster competitors. Now is the ideal time for you to analyze your site, cut off the fat, and get ahead of the crowd before they even notice you’re gone.