The time it takes your website to load has a major impact on your website’s success.
As time goes on, internet users become less and less patient. Today, a website that takes 5 seconds to load will be abandoned by 90% of people! To ensure delighting your visitors, and keeping the Google-Gods happy, you need your website to load in less than 3 seconds (but the shorter the time, the better).
How do I test my website speed?
There are three popular free tools for testing your website’s loading time, and we’ll go over the benefits and drawbacks for all three below. In most cases, it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and test your website using all three of these tools in case one picks up on something the other didn’t.
GTMetrix offers free testing using multiple server locations and across several different browsers. In order to access all the options you’ll need an account, but the free account seems to do just about everything you need in my experience.
Once you landing on the GTMetrix page, sign in (or sign up for an account) and pick the testing location nearest you (by default it’s set to Vancouver, Canada).
Type in your URL into the search bar, and then hit “Test Your Site”.
After a few seconds you’ll be taken to a new screen that gives the results of your test.
From a high-level overview, you can check the ‘Performance Scores’ (given in letter-grade format) and the ‘Page Details’, which cover the fully loaded time, page size, and number of requests (all of which you want to be as small as possible).
What makes GTMetrix great is all the information and data you can collect underneath that overview section.
Their reports will give you suggestions on optimizations you can make, a waterfall chart showing the loading time of each request, and even the timings of each stage of your page load.
Because of all the data they provide, I tend to lean on GTMetrix most often. However, keep in mind the “Fully Loaded Time” is typically higher than what a user will likely experience. This accounts for loading external scripts (like Google Analytics or Facebook Pixels) which your visitors will never see.
Pingdom is another popular choice for website speed tests. Just like GTMetrix, simply plop your URL in the search bar, select your testing location (nearest where you expect traffic to come from) and hit ‘Start Test’.
Within seconds you’ll be given your results.
While Pingdom doesn’t offer as many testing results as GTMetrix, I do often find their Load Time to be more representative of what the user sees in the browser.
They will provide you with basic steps you can take to improve your performance and the loading time by content type.
The last tool we’ll discuss here is Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
This test is arguably the most important (because it most closely represents what Google will determine about your website’s performance), but also the most frustrating to use.
Using WordPress, and especially with a Page Builder, you should expect to see worse results here than the two previous tests., and unfortunately their instructions for making improvements isn’t a lot of help either.
What’s nice is that they test both the mobile and desktop versions of your website since Google places a high importance on mobile speeds.
Neil Patel has a great article on improving your scores on PageSpeed Insights, which I’ll point you to as a reference. Personally, I just haven’t had much luck improving these scores— but I wanted to include them because of their importance.
There are tons of statistics on how the loading time and performance of your website has dramatic effects on the amount of traffic you’ll get, your bounce rate, and even your rankings. Because of this, it’s important you take the time to try and optimize your images and code so that they perform their best.
When performing the tests listed in this article, try running the same website 2 or 3 times on each platform. You’ll likely notice that the results vary each time and you can take an average of the tests.