A lot has been said lately about the impact of speed on search engine rankings. The bottom line is that slow sites will not only lose visitors who are impatient, but they will lose position on Google and other search engines as well.
A really good website, one with little overhead in terms of images and other media and a great host, can often get their load times down to 1 or 2 seconds. Most good blogs, by the time social plugins and other add-ons are accounted for, will take around 4 – 5 seconds to load. Anything slower than 10 seconds and your readers are long gone.
So how fast is your website? Using a stopwatch and clicking “Go” in your browser isn’t a good way to tell (I actually had somebody tell me this week that this is what they do). Instead, use one of these 3 tools to really know how fast your website goes and, more importantly, what you can do to improve it.
WebPagetest.org is the best website speed test tool out there. It measures the load time of your site and every item that is downloaded with it. It then breaks this information down into 6 categories including First Time Byte, Keep-alive Enabled, Compress Text, Compress Images, Cache Static Content, and CDN Detected. Each of these, except for CDN Detected, it then grades you on giving you a scale from A to F (CDN Detected just presents a check mark for yes or no).
Beyond its own detailed grading WebPagetest.org also gives you your Google Page Speed score (more about that later) and detailed information on each and every item downloaded not just on the 1st hit, but on a 2nd hit as well which can really measure the effectiveness of static content caching. All of this information it presents in both graphical and text form with very basic advice, available in the help files, on how to improve on any of the areas graded. Unlike other tools Webpagetest.org also gives you the opportunity to test your site from different serves and browsers giving you the option to compare results from different geographical locations and technical setups.
As a pure speedometer we could just stop here as WebPagetest.org really is the best at telling you how fat your site is. Unfortunately however it is really then up to you to do something about it making it more difficult to interpret and utilize for folks without a strong background on the development side of websites.
WebsiteOptimization.com works in a similar, yet simpler fashion than WebPagetest.org. Instead of giving you the option of where you would like your site tested from and with which browser it simply allows for the input of your URL (once you submit it do not navigate to another tab or window right away as it will ask you to complete a CAPTCHA code on the next page).
Also, unlike Webpagetest.org, it will only run through a single pass of your site giving you all results in a text format. On the one side not having graphs of performance might be more difficult for some to interpret, but they do a very good job of putting all downloaded options and other information on a single page with grading and recommendations for 10 different aspects of your site at the bottom.
While I can’t say I use this service nearly as much as WebPagetest, I do find it valuable as a tool to double-check results and report back very quickly (WebPagetest can take minutes for a report whereas WebSiteOptimization.com will be done in only a few seconds). Overall it is a great backup resource to help find problems with the loading of your site and will give you one more perspective from another server.
3.) Google’s Page Speed Online
This newer service is very simple like WebSiteOptimization.com in that it takes only your URL to get started (it doesn’t even require a CAPTCHA which is nice). In addition, after generating its report, Page Speed Online will give you the option of checking your site on a mobile device, something neither of the other services will do.
Where Page Speed Online lags however is in information. It gives you a score from 0 – 100 to grade the effectiveness of measures you’ve used to improve the speed of your site. It never actually tells you how long it took to load, what the breakdown of your content was, or any of the other detailed information presented by the other 2 services. What it does do better however is give you advice on how to improve the load time of your site by suggesting various techniques and other features. In addition, it gives you an idea of whether Google considers your site to be fast or slow, a heavily weighted factor when Google determines your ranking in search results.
In conclusion, all 3 services have their strengths in helping you determine how fast your site loads and what you can do to improve it. As load time is dependent on both your server/host and the user downloading the site getting performance data from as many sources as possible really is critical. I know there are many resources out there other than these. Which do you use and why?