The Limitations of Google PageSpeed Insights
Google PageSpeeds Insights (PSI) is a free and popular assessment for website speed and user experience — but how closely should you follow its recommendations? While it provides valuable insights into performance metrics, understanding the limitations of PSI assessments is essential to knowing which key website elements to prioritize for improved performance and to help meet your business goals.
Understanding Google PageSpeed Insights
Google PSI analyzes web pages by URL to assess core web vitals and assign a score. It also provides a list of website performance issues to resolve in order to improve your score for desktop and mobile.
The Core Website Vitals assessment is a pass or fail grade that focuses on three key performance signals critical to web user experiences:
- Largest Contentful Paint: Measures the loading time required for the largest piece of page content to become visible to the user.
- Cumulative Layout Shift: Measures how much the content moves around as the page loads.
- First Input Delay: Measures the time it takes for the website to respond to the first user interaction with the page such as clicking a link or button.
PSI also provides audit scores for four categories of website performance:
- Performance: The overall assessment of your page speed and optimization.
- Accessibility: The ease of navigation, addition of alt text for images, and color contrast for users with visual impairments.
- Best Practices: How well your page adheres to web development best practices.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization): How well your page is optimized for search engines, considering aspects such as metadata, structured data, and mobile-friendliness.
PSI doesn’t just provide metrics. It also generates a highly detailed list of technical opportunities to improve the speed and efficiency of your site. Typical suggestions include simplifying code, optimizing images, and reducing server response time.
The Drawbacks of PageSpeed Insights
While PSI serves as a valuable starting point for website optimization, it’s crucial to recognize its limitations. The audit provides information about how to improve your website according to Google standards, but that doesn’t mean it should be your only website strategy. Detailed, technical insights can be useful, but PSI has major shortcomings, including:
Scores Are Not Consistent
The score you receive from PSI can fluctuate each time you submit a URL for analysis, even if you haven’t made any changes to your website. Factors impacting the score include:
- Internet traffic routing changes
- Performance capabilities of the device you are testing on
- Browser extensions that insert additional code
- Antivirus software
Most Sites Don’t Make the Grade
PSI was created as a quality assurance tool for highly technical web developers finalizing a website build. The scoring rubric doesn’t account for website functionality a business needs to drive its unique goals and may deviate from Google’s predetermined standards. As a result, many successful websites have low PSI scores.
If your website is consistently converting high-quality leads, don’t change it just to satisfy PSI recommendations. Prioritize issues that impact the user experience, like 404 errors and broken links, over technical cleanup that doesn’t influence search engine crawling and indexing.
Alternatives to PageSpeed Insights
Looking for a more user-friendly website speed assessment resource? We recommend GTMetrix and Pingdom as additional resources. Ahrefs also does an excellent job making SEO and website performance challenges feel actionable. It visualizes data, gives appropriate context and importance to each technical issue, and provides clear instructions to fix the issues.
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About the Author
Adpearance is the digital marketing company obsessed with generating quality leads. Our solutions combine cutting-edge technology, premium tracking, and an expert team to transform business results.
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