Ensuring your website’s pages load fast is an important part in creating a positive user experience in SEO.
Think about it: Great content may not perform optimally if your pages don’t load quickly, as users will bounce back to the SERP and most likely end up on your competitor’s site.
Plus, the combination of Core Web Vitals (i.e. Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift) with existing page experience metrics like mobile friendliness is set to become a new ranking signal: the page experience signal.
There are many free website speed tools out there that can help you monitor your page speed (as well as other web performance issues) so you can avoid issues and properly serve your users valuable content.
What is a Page Speed Tool?
A page speed tool analyzes a web page and offers recommendations on how to improve the page’s speed; although, each has its own nuances.
Some offer a page score, a percentage, etc. which can vary according to what tool you choose to use.
While the actual score may change drastically between tools, they all are essentially bi-directional in that they recommend the same types of things to a large degree.
After you know what issues are getting in the way of a quick page speed, you can optimize your site to load faster. This means serving a better end user experience, which can greatly improve metrics like time on page, bounce rate, and more.
There are many page speed tools out there that you can start using today. Here are top tools I recommend.
Recommended Reading: Why Page Speed Matters and How to Improve It
The Best Page Speed Testing Tools
1. Chrome Lighthouse
Lighthouse is an open-source tool from Google that you can use to audit performance and accessibility.
There’s an importance of using Lab Data as the source. Lab data is useful for debugging performance issues, as it is collected in a controlled environment. However, it may not capture real-world bottlenecks. At seoClarity, we also utilize Lab data as the core measurement as it is the most consistent
Field Data, on the other hand, is useful for capturing true, real-world user experience — but has a more limited set of metrics.
PSI provides both lab and field data about a page.
(Use Lighthouse to improve the quality of your web pages.)
Another product of Google (and one that actually uses Lighthouse itself), Web.dev gives users a “score card” of red, yellow, or green after the audit is complete.
This scorecard alerts you to your current performance, so you’ll know how many improvements are required. Tips to improve the user experience are provided after the test is completed.
According to Web.dev, “All tests are run using a simulated mobile device, throttled to a fast 3G network & 4x CPU slowdown.”
(Enter your web page URL to check performance, accessibility, best practices, and SEO.)
3. Think With Google
This tool offers customized recommendations to follow for your site’s URL based on your website load time.
According to Think With Google:
- Good load time: 0-2.5 seconds
- Needs Improvement: 2.5 seconds-4 seconds
- Poor load time: 4 seconds and up
After you know your site’s load time, you can identify what the ROI will be from page speed performance updates, like the impact on conversion rate. This can be especially important when needing to provide executive teams and/or development teams with expected output and ROI of making page speed improvements. It’s also helpful that this information is coming directly from Google to help support your recommendations.
(Think With Google gives users recommendations and their potential effect on ROI.)
4. Google PageSpeed Insights
Google’s PageSpeed Insights can analyze any URL for desktop and mobile.
After analyzing a web page’s content, this tool shows you field data (e.g. first contentful paint, first input delay), lab data (e.g. speed index, time to interactive), opportunities, and diagnostics.
(Page speed test results for a Google PageSpeed Insights analysis.)
Puppeteer is a node library that lets you “control headless Chrome or Chromium over the DevTools Protocol.”
It takes manual processes and turns them into automatic procedures, including the ability to create an automated testing environment
You can also create a “timeline trace” to track performance issues that are interfering with your site.
6. Google Search Console and Google Analytics
Some people prefer to stay within GSC and GA to collect and analyze their data.
Google Search Console offers SEOs so many insights, and this applies to page speed, too.
Within GSC, users have access to their core web vital report. Google identifies specific issues with your site and reports them via GSC. To some degree items listed in Google Search Console are spelled out more and linked to additional resources.
Inside GA, there is the site speed report that shows average page load time.
The next tool on the list is WebPageTest. This website performance tool is able to handle more advanced use cases.
Utilize the historical tracking to identify an average speed for the team to use as benchmark. Is able to handle more advanced use cases.
Andy Davies provides an in-depth example of this test and how he uses the compare feature to see how certain website implementations impact the speed and website load times.
(WebPageTest can handle more advanced use cases.)
8. HTTP Archive
HTTP Archive identifies average page speed performance of your platform (Drupal, Magento, WordPress, etc.).
This is important for benchmarking performance specific to the type of CMS improvements and average expected page speed.
(Optimization efforts can help with all the above metrics for website performance.)
9. Website Speed Test
Powered by Cloudinary, WebSpeedTest is an image analysis tool that allows teams to review how images are affecting their site.
Multimedia can often get in the way of a page loading successfully, so this is a great tool to see how image format, quality, size, and other factors all impact site performance.
(Image-heavy sites can see problems with connection speeds and load times.)
Note: You can use Squoosh to compress your images into a smaller file size.
GTmetrix shows website speed and recommendations in order of importance. The analysis is based on a location set in Vancouver, Canada running on Chrome (Desktop) with more options available upon log in. But for another free website speed test tool, it gets the job done.
Plus, you can cycle through a variety of tabs once the analysis is complete: PageSpeed, YSlow, Waterfall, Timings, Video, and History.
(View PageSpeed data, as well as YSlow and Waterfall.)
Recommended Reading: Page Speed and SEO: How to Improve User Experience and Rankings
Tips When Using Page Speed and Performance Tools
As you’ve seen, there are many speed and performance tools out there that you can use to monitor your website.
Before you dive in and use them, I have a few recommendations for using page speed and performance tools like this.
1. When utilizing testers that ask you to set a region, set a region closest to the location of your average customer.
2. Different tools will provide different sets of scores — most tools are based on the original Google Open Source Pagespeed API.
- The methods for scoring will vary from tool to tool. There are many different factors that will cause data to differ, including network variances, device type, the location of third party assets, the way the page was designed to load (eg. asynchronous loading). So be aware that your own site may report differentiations in scoring from each specific tool.
- This is part of the reason why Google is moving to time to fully loaded, which should bring about more consistency in scoring.
3. Align with your Development team on what performance metrics are most important.
When your Dev team has the same performance metrics and goals in mind, they’ll be able to prioritize changes to your site that will enhance page speed (and boost the user experience).
Page Speed Analysis at Scale
While the free tools listed above reveal page load time and performance issues, they do it slowly: one page at a time!
Plus, using so many different tools is going to tell you multiple stories about your data. When you use an SEO platform like seoClarity, you’re able to pull as much information together into one place for seamless analysis.
With our Page Speed Analysis you can identify page speed issues at scale — which is especially critical for enterprise sites.
(A view of seoClarity's Page Speed Analysis.)
Here are a few of the advantages of using our Page Speed Analysis:
- See Every Managed Web Page in a Single View
- Prevent Load Time Issues Affecting Ranking Factor
- Regular Web Page Speed Checks
- Optimize CSS File for Faster Site Loads
- Reduce Bounce Rate, Increase Conversion Rate
- And more!
As with most website performance and speed test tools, the Google tools do not take into consideration more advanced features, but do offer a wide variety of problem solving capabilities and analysis for most businesses to learn more about their site's page speed performance.
To have the most power at your disposal, you’ll need an SEO platform capable of multiple analyses all in one location.
If you want to see how the seoClarity platform can enhance your page speed insights all to offer a better user experience, schedule a demo and one of my colleagues will show you a personalized walkthrough of the platform.