One of my favorite things to do is collect data. I love collecting ALL the data because you never know when you need it and if you collect it you'll always have it when someday you could find a use for it. This brings me to one of my favorite quotes:
“What gets measured gets improved.”Robin S. Sharma (inspired by Peter F. Drucker)
There’s some truth to this. And lucky for us website speed is easy to measure, breakdown, and analyze. And this is important because what works for one site might not work for another. So if you're looking to improve your site speed we always want to measure & confirm our sites are getting faster.
So let’s take a quick tour of the tools we can use to measure our website speed.
Google PageSpeed Insights
Google PageSpeed Insights is a great tool and since one of the main reasons we’re improving the speed of our site is to rank better – we should at least occasionally check our site against the official google tool.
One of the things I like about the Google tool is it gives you scores for Desktop & mobile. It’s very common to see a much lower score for mobile.
Don’t worry if you see a really low number. Even a “failing grade”. This is just a starting point.
KeyCDN has a few tools and they give you a helpful list of things to improve. They also let you choose a server as the test location. So you can see how the site loads for someone who is close to your server compared against someone who lives far away.
My favorite tool is GTMetrix. They have their own grading structure as well as the “Web Vitals” which are the same metrics Google uses. LCP is “largest contentful paint” which is also on the Google Pagespeed Insights tool
They have a speed visualization tool so you can see what a browser is rendering at each second.
The “Performance” tab shows you the web vitals and if you want to learn more about them you can click on the help links.
The “Structure” tab will list suggestions ordered by how big of an impact they’ll make. In my case, I only have one high priority issue.
The “Waterfall” tab is perhaps my favorite piece of information. It shows you how each HTML element is loaded.
If you see a large item it could be blocking all of the items behind it. So one of the things you can do to speed up your site is find large blockers and either reduce their size, remove them entirely, or lazy load them at the end.
We actually haven’t seen the killer feature in GTMetrix. And it’s so simple. With a free account you can monitor your websites and get a daily, weekly, or monthly email summarizing their page speeds.
And the reason this is super important is that WordPress websites are dynamic. The typical site owner is constantly adding & removing plugins, changing their theme’s look & feel, and uploading images.
Numerous times in the last year I’ve received an email from GTMetrix and noticed my score dropped which likely means some plugin, or theme, or setting I changed in the last week is the culprit.
After you test a website you can click “Monitor” and setup a cadence for GTMetrix to send you an updated speed test to your email.
You have numerous tools you can use to monitor & analyze your website's speed. I personally like GTMetrix for those automated reports. Once you have your favorite monitoring setup it's time to start optimizing your website.