First there there was Google Panda that penalized low quality websites and then after a year there came Google Penguin which penalized websites that violated Google’s webmaster guidelines.
In 2010 Matt Cutts (head of Google’s Webspam team) announced that Google is incorporating site speed in search ranking. It literally means that websites that load faster will be ranked higher than sites which are slow. Google’s philosophy is that faster websites create happy users and it improves the user experience. It appears like patience is a virtue but not for web users as New York Times reports that an eye blink is just too long to wait for impatient web users.
And Google’s advice was
We encourage you to start looking at your site’s speed — not only to improve your ranking in search engines, but also to improve everyone’s experience on the Internet.
I ignored their advice as I was focusing on content, design, and other stuff. But last month I became serious about site speed as I knew that my blog was slow. So I used several strategies to improve the page loading time. And yeah, now according to Google Analytics my page loading speed has increased 300%.
Page Speed should be a part of your overall Website Optimization strategies as it can affect your rankings and thereby your bottom line as well. An optimized web page also leads to higher user engagement, improved bounce rate, and conversions.
I’ll write detailed blog post(s) later about how I improved the page speed as I’m still testing different plugins and settings. But today I’m going to focus on few tools which can be used to check your website’s loading time and several other aspects.
The Only 7 Tools You’ll Ever Need To Test The Page Load Time
Though there are tons of tools available but I’m going to focus on only few of them as I believe that these are the only tools which we ever need. It analyzes the web pages and offers suggestions to improve its performance.
WebPageTest is perhaps the most popular online tool to test a website’s performance. It’s an open source project supported by Google and was originally developed by AOL.
You can run a free website speed test from multiple locations around the globe using real browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome and Mobile browsers). With WebPageTest, you can run simple tests or perform advanced testing including Analytical Review, Visual Comparison, Mobile Test, Trace Route, Video Capture etc. With Visual Comparison, you can enter multiple URLs and compare its loading time visually.
The default test is the Analytics Review and all you need to do is enter your website’s URL and start the test. You can select a “test location” and a “browser” of your choice if you want.
WebPageTest does a comprehensive analysis of your web page and it shows the page load time, a full optimization checklist, content breakdown by MIME type & domains, and shows your Page Speed Score as well.
2. Pingdom Tools
Pingdom as you probably know is the most popular website monitoring service. Pingdom offers a set of tools that’s used to test the load time of a web page. There are no additional settings and all you need to do is enter the URL and click “Test Now“. It analyses the URL’s loading time and finds its bottlenecks too.
The quick results shows your web page’s Performance Grade (out of 100), Total Number of Requests, Page Load Time, and Page Size.
If you’re geeky then you can check detailed results. The Waterfall view shows all the requests done to load this page, the Performance Grade view shows your web page’s Page Speed Performance and their recommendation for each technical aspect of your web page, and the Page Analysis shows a comprehensive view of your Server Response Code, Page Load Time Analysis, Page Size Analysis, and Request Analysis.
Since there’s an option to save the test results and make it public, you can access the performance of your web page in the past and can compare it with the current version.
Pingdom remembers a web page’s past Page Load Time, Page Size and Request Count, Page Speed Score, and Date of Test.
GTmetrix is a tool to determine the performance of your website. It was totally unknown to me and I came to know about this tool when HostGator recommended it to me. It says “GTmetrix can help you develop a faster, more efficient, and all-around improved website experience for your users”.
The real advantage of GTmetrix is that it uses both Google PageSpeed & Yahoo! YSlow to analyze your website’s performance and offers recommendations to fix the issues. GRmetrix offers a more comprehensive performance report than the above tools. It consolidates the recommendations by Google Page Speed and Yahoo! YSlow. When you run the performance report it shows the Page Speed Grade, YSlow Grade, Page Load Time, Total Page Size and Total Number of Requests.
As you can see it shows the Grade of each and every single aspect of your website’s architecture and offers recommendation for all of them. You can click on individual recommendation and it will show you what you need to do in order to increase the Page Speed Score of your website. Like Pingdom tools GTmetrix remembers the Page Load Times, Page Sizes and Request Counts, Page Speed and YSlow Scores of your website so that you can compare the results. You can also download your report as a PDF.
4. Google PageSpeed Insights
Google PageSpeed Insights analyzes your web pages and then generates recommendations to improve the performance of your website. According to Google, faster websites offer better user experience and hence improving the page speed can reduce your bounce rates and increase conversion rates.
PageSpeed Insights offers a report for Mobile devices as well. You can click on “mobile report” to get suggestions on how to optimize the performance of your web page for mobile devices. I feel that though GTmetrix is based on Google PageSpeed Insights it offers more readable reporting than PageSpeed Insights.
Google PageSpeed Insights is also available as a browser extension and is available for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. You can use PageSpeed Insights Browser Extensions to evaluate the performance of your pages and to get recommendations.
5. Yahoo! YSlow
YSlow by Yahoo! Developer Network is an online tool that analyzes your web pages and offers recommendations to improve the performance. It grades web pages, summarizes page’s components, shows page’s statistics and then offers suggestions to improve its grade based on a set of rules identified by Yahoo!’s performance team.
Unlike all the other tools mentioned above, YSlow requires a browser extension to work and it’s available for Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. It also offers two additional tools called Smush.it and JSLint for performance analysis.
6. Google Analytics Site Speed Reports
You can also use Google Analytics Site Speed reports to analyze your web page’s loading time. There’s no setup required and all you need to do is navigate to Google Analytics > Reporting > Content > Site Speed > Overview.
It shows the Average Page Load Time, Average Redirection Time, Average Domain Lookup Time, Average Server Connection Time, Average Server Response Time, and Average Page Download Time. As mentioned earlier this blog’s average page load time improved 300% according to Google Analytics.
7. Which loads faster?
BONUS: Show Slow
Show Slow is yet another open source tool that helps you to monitor the various metrics of your website over time. It captures the results of Yahoo! YSlow, Google PageSpeed, WebPageTest.org and dynaTrace AJAX Edition rankings and graphs them so that you understand how various changes affect the performance of your website.
Image Credit: Free Digital Photos