Do you have questions about our Google PageSpeed Optimization process especially for WordPress and WooCommerce since the Google announcement about Core Web Vitals?
We made this post to explain how our process works if you choose to collaborate with us to improve your Google PageSpeed scores and hopefully get your SEO rankings up, conversions improved and efforts rewarded.
You tell us which pages you care about the most. Maybe you have some pages that are already ranking very highly in Google that you want to stay in place.
Maybe you have some content you feel could rank better if it had better Google PageSpeed scores.
This helps us focus together on your primary goals and help control the SEO variable of speed and its impact on Google rankings.
Benefits of Google PageSpeed Improvements
Here are a few benefits of improving your Google PageSpeed scores for WordPress and other site types.
Potentially increase organic Google search rankings. We work with a lot of SEO agencies that want to eliminate the Google PageSpeed variable. This way they can stop worrying if site performance is holding back your SEO efforts.
Google has said the core web vitals will be a tie-breaker with rankings so if your competitor in your vertical is optimized and you are not then you lose the rank war!
Google PageSpeed optimization can improve conversion rates on WooCommerce and affiliate sites because the visual render time improves for the user's experience. This leads to that snappiness feeling like Amazon has that they have invested heavily in because they know how important it is for user retention, revenue and conversions.
One client in our case study was ordered to get green PageSpeed scores. We joked how the site was already very fast because it was using a well-known light theme and it couldn't possibly actually get faster.
Funnily enough, in this WooCommerce PageSpeed improvement case study, the client admitted that the site did very much feel noticeably faster after the optimizations!
If you are thinking there are low-hanging fruit optimizations for Google PageSpeed I'm sorry to disappoint you.
For those of you that run ads we have you covered too!
Google PageSpeed Phase 1 – Audit
First, we do an initial audit of your site to find out if your site is a good candidate. This yields a performance roadmap for your site to follow. There may be some changes that you need to make before we can get your site into the 90+ range that are simply not optional like solid hosting, a good theme foundation or replacing some plugins.
If your site does not qualify after the audit, you will be given the guidelines to follow like rebuilding your site with another theme or templates.
Possibilities following the audit for the guidelines are
- The database needs a very thorough cleaning.
- In some cases we need to replace a theme with a lighter version
- Page builder needs to be replaced or removed
- Some plugins may need to be removed or alternatives implemented
- Even custom solutions may need to be built in a future phase if the plugin is critical to the site's functionality.
The deliverable outcome is a document outlining the major issues of the site and what to change, address and/or replace so that your site can achieve good scores after a future optimization phase.
It is important to note that this phase is for auditing only, no optimizations can be completed until the site is in good health and has a solid foundation for performance.
If your site qualifies after the audit, we will begin with a week-long discovery phase. The purpose of the discovery phase is to give you a more accurate price range for the full implementation of the tailored optimizations customized for your site.
In our audits, we don't just copy and paste reports from Google or GTmetrix – those only contain “the what”. We give you the “why it is impairing performance” and “how it can be addressed” – this is where the real value from the audit lies!
Fun fact: blindly following some of Google's suggestions and opportunities can actually harm your performance efforts!
Duration: 1-day minimum full time
Google PageSpeed Phase 2 – Discovery
In the discovery phase, we create your performance strategy unique to your site. In our approach we categorize optimizations differently to most services.
Site-independent – these are general best practices that apply to all websites like minifiying your assets. Many of the ‘cache plugins' you can buy will do this for you.
Site-dependent – these optimizations are contingent upon the unique setup of your site's theme and plugins – we spend the majority of our resources on these because they are the changes that impact the Google PageSpeed score the most!
Page-type-dependent – optimizations that are specific to certain templates like your category pages, posts or custom post types.
Page-dependent – optimizations that are unique to a specific page.
Some of the action items that we yield from the discovery phase
- Style cleanup in the CSS files.
- Custom plugin development to replace bloated commercial plugins
- In other cases we need to move the site to a new host and create a custom server configuration on a managed host to suit your needs.
- We may need to use advanced CDN configuration tactics (these can be $200 a month for the service provider).
After this phase we have a document of the planned changes to implement for the testing phase.
At this stage we usually have an idea of the score range for your site if we carry on with the full optimization package for Google PageSpeed.
Duration: 1 week minimum full-time
Google PageSpeed Phase 3 – Testing
We set up a staging site that replicates your current live site and implement the optimizations so you can review them to make sure the site is functioning as expected.
During this phase we do any bug fixing and make any compromises that still help meet your website's goals without compromising performance too heavily.
Duration: 1 week minimum full-time
Google PageSpeed Phase 4 – Go Live Implementation
In this phase we put all of the optimizations live, monitor and fix any bugs that may not have emerged during the testing phase.
Duration: 1-3 days minimum full-time
Generally the entire process takes several weeks for our team from audit, to discovery, testing and finally implementation.
We care deeply about the quality of the work for our clients so we are only able to help a handful of clients each month with PageSpeed score improvements.
Working Together Requirements
One requirement is you must be open to changing almost anything and everything on your site to help achieve the Google scores you want. This can mean changing hosting, themes, plugins, CDN, design etc. The more flexible you are, the more likely we will be able to help you achieve your website performance goals for Google PageSpeed.
We did not make the Google PageSpeed algorithm but we know how to work within its limits. There will be multiple times we chat about certain compromises we have to make for the sake of performance and we will find those solutions together. We are also able to work with PageSpeed algorithm updates like we did for this client.
Another requirement is that you must be open to using our in-house plugins. While some plugins can be helpful, generally we have to use our in-house plugins to achieve the highest PageSpeed scores for your site. These plugins only available to our VIP clients who work with us.
Our in-house plugins have an annual subscription fee that is about 10x higher than what you would expect from most other WordPress plugins related to performance. As part of the subscription we will be maintaining support for your site within reasonable limits if there are any bugs on our end.
One of the reasons for the higher annual subscription is so we can dedicate the support resources necessary so the product meets our quality standards and those of our awesome clients.
Note that if we can avoid using our in-house plugins we will!
Prepare to be collaborative, while we do most of the heavy lifting we will ask for your input to make sure we are not impacting your user experience or business goals.
Common Google PageSpeed Confusions and Pitfalls
Google has made things slightly confusing for the end user when trying to understand their Lighthouse recommendations and opportunities for performance optimizations.
Some users get confused about why they see their pages are all ‘good' in Google Search Console according to the core web vitals but when they run their site through Google's PageSpeed Insights tools they get a different result.
This is because the core web vitals as of July 8th are only 3 metrics:
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Google PageSpeed Insights version 6 is calculated from all of these metrics:
- Speed Index (SI)
- Total Blocking Time (TBT)
- Time to Interactive (TTI)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
So the two scores are completely different yet overlap!
Google Search Console's performance metrics currently as of July 8th 2020 are only for core web vitals field data. What is the field data mentioned in Google PageSpeed? It is the data collected by real Google Chrome browser users that Google has collected via Google Analytics.
To further confuse matters, you get varying PageSpeed Insights scores depending on which tool or method you use.
Google Chrome's Lighthouse tool local is lab only data.
The online Google PageSpeed Insights tool shows both lab results and field data!
|Google Tool||Data Type|
|Google Search Console||Field data – real user data|
|Lighthouse in Google Chrome||Lab data – test browser|
|Google PageSpeed Insights||Field and Lab data|
Google PageSpeed Optimization WordPress FAQ
> Why Do I Need the Audit?
This is the most common question by far. Most users want to spend money on actual optimizations rather than audits. Many have had very bad experienced with audits because they were useless or not actionable. Our audits are completely actionable and the recommendations do not need to be completed by us if you have a competent development team already.
Not doing an audit is like trying to build a house without looking at the plot of land you want to build upon. Not making blueprints, investigating the neighborhood or making sure you aren't going to be hit by natural disasters.
For some sites, they have a shaky foundation with a basement that is flooding and the roof is on fire. Improving Google PageSpeed scores is like planting a beautiful garden in the front yard and adding a pool with a deck. We have to prioritize the most important performance issues first by putting out the fires and fixing the leaky basement pipes before any other optimizations are worth doing.
We find it reckless to not audit sites for major performance issues before we will optimize your site for Google PageSpeed.
The initial audit is mandatory if you want to work with us on Google PageSpeed score improvements.
> I have lots of content like images, videos and marketing tools, do I have to get rid of them?
We can optimize images and videos loading so they do not impact the scores on Google PageSpeed.
> I use a lot of marketing tools, do I have to get rid of them?
Most likely we can help you optimize these in various ways so you can keep their functionality but scores are less impacted or not negatively affected at all.
> Will I have to replace my theme?
Maybe! With so many themes out there and many of them very bloated, it is a real possibility that you should be prepared for. Beware of marketing claims that a theme is light and performant – many of these theme authors have a very different definition of lightweight and performance-friendly than we do.
> Will I have to get rid of some plugins?
Most likely yes but we will help you find performance-friendly alternative or custom build ones for you. We always work with you to compromise on the features of your site without the performance cost.
> Will I have to change host?
Probably, most hosts are not well-tuned for performance. Read why it doesn't matter if your server has 10 CPU cores and 20 GB of RAM either.
> Will I need a CDN?
A very good chance a CDN will help lift the core web vitals if properly configured and other critical visual render time metrics.
> Will I lose some features?
Potentially, this is all found out in the discovery and audit. We will always work with you to find a way to keep your feature and not have the performance compromised.
> Can't you just implement some small tweaks like low-hanging fruit
This is no longer possible in our experience. Green scores nowadays require careful consideration, planning and testing. Magic wands and spells can produce disappointing results. Read more about low-hanging fruit myths here.
> Will you optimize my entire site or just some pages?
We always aim to make as many site-wide changes as possible to improve the scores. To what extent this is possible depends entirely on the site and its functionality, how it was built etc. The discovery phase helps us narrow this down further.
> How will I get to talk to you to check-in?
We will have regular Zoom sessions to provide updates on the process and clarify any issues so we work together to get the site functioning the same. We'll need you help for that as part of the quality assurance process (QA).
> Who makes sure the site still works properly at each optimization stage for the quality assurance process?
This is a joint effort. We do the technical quality assurance testing to make sure the optimizations are improving the metrics. We will need your help for the visual and user experience quality assurance testing. We have a document we provide that helps expedite this process so we can get your optimizations deployed sooner rather than later!
> What if my site is really complicated?
We will work together to find a way to make it work! We do not give up easily here :). The discovery phase may take longer or you may require a longer audit but since we've already optimized WooCommerce and sites with ads, it shouldn't be an issue.
> What if I use display ads like Google AdSense to make money? I thought you couldn't optimize ads?