Just a few years ago, testing your website speed was something only developers and extremely tech-savvy people could do. It was a process that left us mere mortals bewildered and in awe of these Jedi-Masters of the site speed testing world.
However, technology has come a long way since then, each year, heck each month there seems to be a new kid on the block when it comes to making your website load faster and fixing issues for both the user and the search engines. But not all are created equal, there are some tools that do stand out from the crowd and make out jobs as webmasters that much easier.[toc]In this article, I dive into my 12 favorite tools to test website speed. I’ve used them myself to speed up this WordPress website to a point where we are seeing sub 0.5 second load times!
If that’s got you inspired, read on.
Why You Should Test Your Website Speed
Not only is website speed important for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), it’s been proven to be equally if not more important from a CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) standpoint too.
Think about it this way. You use SEO to push your page or website higher in the search engine rankings in order to attract more traffic to your website. If you own a blog, you’ll know how difficult it can be to attract visitors.
Once there, CRO kicks in. If your page has taken longer than 3-seconds to load, you’re looking at a high percentage of users hitting that back button, never to return.
So be speeding up your website, you have a double-pronged attack. Rank Higher (SEO) + Retain Users (CRO).
You simply need a fast website in order to retain the traffic your website gets so that you have a greater chance of converting them into clients, customers or affiliate sales.
In a study conducted by Google, they revealed that:
as page load time goes from one second to 10 seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases 123%
How To Read Speed Testing Tools
Each tool is different and will present their data in a variety of ways. The top 3 tools on this list are my favorite go-to tools, mainly because of the user-friendly interface and extensive knowledge base and documentation.
That’s not to say the others are garbage, they are all worth a visit as each provides a new aspect you may never have discovered.
With that said, the two most common approaches these tools take to present how your website is performing are:
1) Alphabetical/Percentage Grading
As you can see, GTMetrics provides both a traditional grading, where A+ is the best, and also a percentage score which shows how far you are from achieving top marks.
2) Marks Out of 100
Pingdom, on the other hand, provides a performance grade which is a score out of 100. The closer you get to 100…the better. Simple.
How To Improve Your Website Speed
This is a question we get asked a lot and it’s a question that cannot be answered in a short paragraph.
Luckily our website speed experts have created a complete guide to WordPress speed optimization that will take to a blazing fast website in 25-steps.
By following the guide above, you will see how in just a few hours we reduced our page load speed to less than half a second.
Anything below 3-seconds is considered good by Google, we always aim for less than 2-seconds for our clients.
The Top 12 Website Speed Testing Tools For 2020
Now let’s dive into the tools you can use to your advantage.
1. Pingdom Speed Test
The Pingdom website speed test tool is the most popular and my personal favorite of the lot. It offers the ability to analyze your website or individual webpages and test the performance from 7 locations across 5 continents, making it one of the more accurate tools out there.
If you’re a beginner, you should start with Pingdom. The test results are broken down into an easy to digest format, making it easy to see which elements on the page are loading slowly.
You can see at a glance your performance grade, load time, page size and the number of requests you page made.
The next section named “Improve page performance” give you the ‘lowest graded items’, which are an indication of what you should focus on first to boost that page speed.
You can also obtain a breakdown of your content size by type. For example what percentage of your content size (and subsequently your load speed) is driven by images, script, fonts, CSS and HTML.
The final and perhaps cherry on the cake for most people is the waterfall graphic which gives an excellent visual representation of your website load time. By default this is sorted by load order, however, you can adjust this to sort by time, status code, size, etc.
Another popular tool is GTmetrix, which comes in a close 2nd to Pingdom. There really is very little to split the two, however, for me I find the speed of GTmetrix sometimes an issue (depending on how many crawls are in their queue).
With that being said, this is a completely free tool that even allows you to create a free account and track your historical crawls so you can see speed improvements over time.
3. Google PageSpeed Insights
The PageSpeed Insights Tool is considered by some to be the tool you should trust when trying to determine how Google will view your site speed. Given that it’s owned and provided by Google, this makes complete sense.
However, I should caveat that with a warning…
Don’t get too hung up on chasing that elusive 100/100 score on this, or any of these tools for that matter. They should be treated as a guideline and nothing more.
What I love about the PageSpeed Insights tool is that it provides you with both a Desktop & Mobile view of your speed score from a single search and it offers a simple index you can use to classify your websites speed.
- 90-100 (fast)
- 50-89 (average)
- 0-49 (slow)
The data provided by this tool comes from Lighthouse, which is an open-source tool that is used to improve the quality of webpages. If you run your website through this tool and are not provided with any scores than you can set up Lighthouse in Chrome DevTools.
4. Google Test My Site
Google Test My Site provides a mobile speed report based on 4G mobile data. This differs greatly to other tools on this list that use servers connected to broadband internet to crawl your website.
By using this tool from Google, you will get an understanding of how your website performs across the 4G network when your visitors are out and about away from a WiFi connection.
Testing your mobile site speed is more important now that ever since the start of mobile first indexing. Once mobile traffic to websites started to eclipse those visiting from a traditional desktop, Google decided to move their algorithm and indexing process to prioritize pages developed for mobile.
There are a number of great features this tool has to help in your speed optimization adventure:
- Benchmark your site speed against your competitors
- Evaluate the financial impact a faster site can have on your business
- Get custom fixes for individual URL’s to make each page on your site load faster
- Generate a free report that you can share with your team/developer
In summary, I like the ability to use this as a competitive intelligence tool by comparing your page against a competing page to see what you can do to be the best.
5. KeyCDN Speed Test Tool
The KeyCDN Website Speed Test Tool gives us the ability to analyze our page load time from 14 different test locations.
If you have an audience from multiple countries around the world, then this tool will help to understand which of those visiting countries will have a poor experience due to slow load times.
Since KeyCDN are a Content Delivery Network (or Content Distribution Network), their knowledge lies in the details that fall between the lines.
Each little detail that can impact website performance needs to be understood and improved in order for them to provide their services.
So it makes sense for them to provide a tool that will help users to understand the pitfalls and seek to improve them by following they’re easy to read waterfall diagram.
This diagram shows the load time for each element on your page and provides a URL for each. This makes it easy to find that elusive CSS file or image that’s having a negative impact on your performance
The results page for this tool are not as in-depth as those featured above, but it does provide a succinct and accurate picture, even if it is lacking the technical detail on how to actually fix the issues themselves.
The WebPageTest Tool, despite is 2009 appearance does a good job of presenting the required metrics and benchmarks we need.
I specifically like the way the TTFB (Time To First Byte), Image Compression and Cached Content metrics are displayed. Giving an immediate ‘feel’ for how well optimized your website is.
Beyond the basic metrics, there is also a waterfall view of your page load with each element listed in order, with actual load time next to each.
I like to use this view for finding unusually large blocks of load time that shouldn’t be there. By clicking on an item of interest, a small popup window allows you to get more detail on the item such as the direct URL, size and load time.
The Dotcom-Monitor by dotcom-tools allows you to test your website speed from 25 locations across the globe.
Personally, I feel that the more locations a tool has the better. Since it helps to get a feel for not just the country your web host resides in, but also the experience ALL of your visitors will have when visiting your website.
The modern interface will tell you key metrics, such as how many elements resulted in a 4xx or 5xx error, which is a big no-no when you’re trying to speed up your website.
The table view shows you the 1st and repeat visit load-times for each of the 25 locations offered. This is a helpful view as it shows how well your cache and CDN are performing.
Lastly, as is becoming more and more popular amongst these testing tools, if the waterfall chart and the ability to share your report with a team member or developer.
8. Yellow Lab Tools
The tool offered by Yellow Lab offers a fast way to get an overall benchmark score which that call the “Global Score”, and a complete rundown of what’s good and bad about your page performance.
Yellow Lab take a different approach when it comes it comes to displaying the results, which I must say, I like very much.
They take the pain out of finding the issues and present them in a way that’s both easy to digest and highly-actionable.
As you can see, the color-coded nature of the report makes it easy to spot the time-sucking elements – looks like we’ve got a few elements to improve on.
9. Varvy Pagespeed Optimization
The Pagespeed Optimization tool by Varvy is an interesting tool for a number of reasons. It makes the list because it’s fast and does provide a lot of helpful information.
Where it lacks, however, is how the data and reports are displayed. It’s not entirely user-friendly and making sense of the data will take some work.
There are, however, some very helpful links that will appear at the bottom of each section of the report which provides a quick way to read about and learn how to fix problem areas of your website.
Try it out and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Another free website speed test tool, this time from UpTrends. For me, this tool gets top marks for its design and reporting, it’s very clean and modern and each to understand.
I am, however, a little skeptical of the scores it provides, especially the Google PageSpeed Score, which at the time of testing came out at 99/100.
I know from using the actual PageSpeed Insights Tool above, my score was not 99/100…it was around the 80/100 mark, so I am unsure where they are getting that metric from.
The tool does provide all the features you need to start to improve your website performance, such as a Performance improvements section and a graphical waterfall chart.
Last on our list of tools is DareBoost, which claims to help you to test, analyze and optimize your website.
My first thoughts on this tool were that it looked very cool, but would it provide the goods? Well, I’m happy to say that it does tick all the boxes I needed such as benchmark scores, performance improvement suggestions and very nice “Tips and best practices” section that not only provides a detail explanation of what the problem or suggest it..but also links to other resources that can further enhance your understanding and knowledge.
For me, DareBoost has gone one step further them most when it comes to providing an all-round testing tool that actually does what it’s meant to do.
Give this one a try if you’ve done all of the big things on the list but still have a way to go to optimize your speed. There are some real gems in the reporting that most of the other tools simply don’t cover.
As you can see, there are quite a number of useful website speed test tools to choose from. Some offer more functionality than the others, but all have their merits.
If you’re just getting started, I recommend you stick with the top 3 and take action right away, making changes and improvements to your website.
Then, if you’re in need of further benchmarking and tracking, you can move on to try out the other tools in your newly acquired arsenal.