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Pagespeeds Insights is a Bunch of #Horseshit

6 August 2015
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First of all, let’s get this out of the way. We’re Google fan-boys and girls here at Stephdokin. Google does amazing things with data. But when data stinks, you have to call it what it is.

According to Google, PageSpeed Insights is a “tool that helps developers optimize their web pages by analyzing the pages and generating tailored suggestions to make the pages faster.” It gives varied results at best, and I never really knew what the measurements were based on. While using the tool I came to the conclusion the tool was not helpful and was in fact #Horsehit. Upon further review however it seems it’s a little more useful that I originally thought, it’s just not meant to be a fully encompassing guide to web development. It needs to be used it in conjunction with other tools such as Pingdom or Woorank. You likely have another tool of choice.

There are still some major downsides of the Insights tool that are discussed here and here. So maybe its not all that bad, although I do think that the results do smell a little funny sometimes. But hey…has the web ever been completely cut and dry? I think not 😉

Google Discontinues PageSpeed Service, not Pagespeeds Insights

Now before we move on lets clarify that we are talking about Pagespeeds INSIGHTS. Google recently announced they are getting rid of Pagespeeds SERVICE on August 3rd, 2015. At first I confused the two so lets make sure you know the difference, Pagespeeds Service helped serve your page faster and cached parts of the page on Google servers (alive no more). This post is about Pagespeed Insights so lets give it our full attention.

Ah yes, Pagespeeds, Pagespeeds…a tool for speed or a tool for designers? On the Google FAQ page a lot of my questions were answered and the following excerpt actually cleared up some misconceptions:

“Some PageSpeed Insights rules are based on basic principles of web development; others are based on more advanced features. Since PageSpeed is a performance optimization tool, its recommendations are biased in favour of speed. However, we recognize that web development is complex, and our suggestions might be restrictive for an individual web site. You have to consider the tradeoffs for your own application: some of PageSpeed’s recommendations take substantial effort to implement, so you need to evaluate the cost of making changes vs. the benefit the rule would have on your page. Our goal is simply to point out the issues that you should consider fixing.”

More on Google PageSpeeds Insights

Google explicitly states that the advice should be evaluated based on your situation. The web is not black and white, keep that in mind as you heed the Insights from the Googly machine! More on the PageSpeeds tool:

  • It gives a score for both mobile and desktop (for more on mobile click here).
  • It measures page performance on “above the fold” load time and also full page load time.
  • It gives recommendations on image re-sizing, render blocking, browser caching and more.
  • It will point out the files you need to adjust so you can more easily find them.

What can the Tool do for us?

I ran some tests before researching and got pretty frustrated. Don’t be alarmed if you receive a low score. Desktop scores above 70 are pretty darn good, 80 is very good. Google is picky on their pagespeeds test, don’t take the ranking as law (they don’t even have a 100 desktop score themselves). Many high profile sites have rankings that are very low. For example at the time this article was written Twitter scored a measly 56 on mobile and 61 on desktop. This doesn’t make Twitter a bad site in regards to usability or rankings. But nonetheless you would think they would try to improve these scores. Another example is ranking with a score of 51.

So take Google’s pagespeed insights into account but don’t be overly alarmed with the results. I’d say you are doing pretty darn well if your score is above 70. But after making these conclusions on my own I found this:

“The PageSpeed Score ranges from 0 to 100 points. A higher score is better and a score of 85 or above indicates that the page is performing well. Please note that PageSpeed Insights is being continually improved and so the score will change as we add new rules or improve our analysis.”

Ok there it is, if you can get your score above 85 then give yourself a pat on the back. You did it and you did it well. All the perfectionists out there stop and take a minute: look at the diminishing returns of achieving scores over 85…is it really worth it?

More Uncertainty from the Mouth of Google:

“Since the performance of a network connection varies considerably, PageSpeed Insights only considers the network-independent aspects of page performance: the server configuration, the HTML structure of a page, and its use of external resources such as images, JavaScript, and CSS. Implementing the suggestions should improve the relative performance of the page. However, the absolute performance of the page will still be dependent upon a user’s network connection.”


Ok…a little more inconsistency from the tool. In that case I will repeat what was said previously, definitely look at the recommendations from PageSpeeds but you may not necessarily take the time to make ALL of the proposed changes.

The PageSpeeds tool isn’t all that bad

As this post winds down, do I still think that PageSpeeds is #horseshit? No not entirely so, but there are still parts that smell a little funky so beware.

A new feature of Insights is that you can actually download the optimized resources recommended by Insights, so the Tool is improving! Again we don’t always want to follow the rules they outline so you may not want to implement everything. In the end its directional data that you take in with the other tools you use. You can triangulate the data and figure out what is most important. Viewing it in the correct lens will bring you some good insights. But using the tool on its own and regarding it as law is #horseshit. If you use it in addition to other comparisons it is much more useful. The way Google explains the tool gives me much more confidence. Oh and remember we DO love Google here at The Stephdokin Digital Agency 😉







Bonus Resource:

Not sure what to do with the results of your PageSpeeds Analysis? Take a look at this guide:
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