Site speed test results – Pingdom vs Google why so different?

It’s a good idea to check and make sure that your website is running as well as possible, and imperative that I do it for clients to ensure I’m doing the best I can for them, as part of the service I offer. But I find it frustrating how the differences in results from one checking tool to another can vary so wildly.

Here are the Pingdom results of one of my client’s websites – mdel.co.nz:

100% – brillant. This reflects the amount of work I put in to make sure my client’s websites perform well.

But… uh-oh – here’s Google’s PageSpeed results on the same site on the same day:

There is one obvious thing that can sway the results, and that’s the country that the speed test is run from.

Here’s the same site but run via the USA, rather than Australia – where the site’s server is located:

Pingdom doesn’t like the mdel.co.nz website so much now. But does this really matter? Almost 100% of this site’s visitors are based in New Zealand and Australia. For them the website is fast – very fast.

Google doesn’t say where its test servers are located, but I assume it’s the USA.

Performance results via Securi Load Time Tester:

All of the websites I manage run a plugin called WP Rocket Cache. Here’s a post – The Truth About Google PageSpeed Insights – written by the plugin developers that discusses the reasons why it’s not wise to put too much trust in Google’s results. From my experience I tend to agree with their findings. In summary:

  • your Google PageSpeed score does not matter
  • the loading time of your site is the most important metric
  • Google’s PageSpeed grade is not actually an indicator of speed
  • chasing a 100% PageSpeed grade is a waste of time
  • and since it doesn’t correlate to speed, why bother?

Google PageSpeed Insights is not a tool that gives you a real number for how long your page takes to load. You need other tools for that. Instead, PageSpeed Insights gives you a score from 0-100 based on how well your site is technically optimized, with separate scores for desktop and mobile.

To calculate this score, Google uses two metrics (direct quote):

  • time to above-the-fold load: Elapsed time from the moment a user requests a new page and to the moment the above-the-fold content is rendered by the browser.
  • time to full page load: Elapsed time from the moment a user requests a new page to the moment the page is fully rendered by the browser.

And while Google’s suggestions are important, they readily admit that the test “only considers the network-independent aspects of page performance”. That means PageSpeed Insights does not, among other things, directly consider the speed of your host.

Your website will only ever be as fast as the hardware that’s powering it. A high-quality web host and good caching is what really matters. When it comes to absolute page load times (the important thing!) it’s best to focus on fast hosting and a well optimised website.


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