Every year Google introduces new rules and feautures for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While it was officially introduced at a developer conference in 2010, Google's PageSpeed tool really took off in 2016 along with a number of other changes and adjustments to basic SEO strategy.
What is Google PageSpeed?
Google PageSpeed is a part of a family of tools created by Google designed to help a website's performance optimizations. The tool family has four members: PageSpeed Module (also called mod_pagespeed), PageSpeed Insights, PageSpeed Service and PageSpeed Chrome DecTools extension. All the components are meant to work together to expose faults in a website’s compliance with Google’s Web Performance Best Practices, as well as automate the adjustment process. One of the main things the tool is meant to accomplish is to test the mobile friendliness of your website.
Google Pagespeed is misleading and disruptive
As a web designer I was curious to see how my site would fare under this test and was surprised to see that we came out pretty poorly. The problem is that practically every site we tested came out poorly as well.
I had one client claim that we built their website incorrectly. They wanted us to fix the problem as it seemed to them the site should be scoring highly. Perhaps they were wondering if their site was properly cached or if it was then why the caching plugin hadn't fixed any problems flagged by this Google tool in the first place.
The main issue is that PageSpeed scores don't measure or reflect how long it takes a website to load, which is by far the most important factor for user experience and SEO results. I've seen poor scores with websites that load in under three seconds.
Is it worth the expense to try for a high Google PageSpeed score?
It depends on your business and competition. Larger clients who are in a competitive space need to do more work to beat their competition. Smaller businesses who are more local probably can't justify the expense.
So why did Google really introduce this tool?
In my opinion there is a strategy behind everything they do. Clearly they are in the business of making money and the majority of their revenue comes from pay per click ads for searches. If you draw a line from this tool back to their search algorithm it seems that they are trying to tell webmasters how to get better rankings. If Google says your website needs to have a high score to get better rankings, then everyone scrambles to do the work to meet their criteria. Paying attention to rankings influences the urge to pay for ads which benefits Google's bottom line.
As an example, I just converted our website to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which is another extremely difficult restructuring process for a better mobile experience. This was an experiment because Google is now showing AMP, with a small lightening bolt, in mobile search results. The investment in time and effort to get the AMP on my link was a lot of extra effort.
The bottom line
It's reasonable that websites should load quickly and it's great to put out tools that help the web community deliver better content. It is bad for the industry, however, to put misleading information out there to cause such disruption and problems for webmasters. HEY GOOGLE, ARE YOU LISTENING?
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