Google is phasing out its proprietary web performance offering, Pagespeed Insights in favor of Google Lighthouse, a more comprehensive web performance, and free SEO audit tool. Google Lighthouse combines Pagespeed Insights (formerly the “go-to” Pagespeed tool) with new features for auditing site structure, User Interface (UI), and SEO. Here’s how Google Lighthouse works and how to get the most out of this great website tool. This guide will help you improve your website rankings and pagespeeds using the new audit tool called Google Lighthouse
How Google Lighthouse Works: Side-by-side comparison to Pagespeed Insights
To access Google Lighthouse, select “More tools” in Google Chrome (you must use Google Chrome for this tool), then click “Developer Tools,” and run an audit. You may also simply press F12 on your keyboard. The audit produces five easy to understand scores at the top of your audit report. These include:
- Progressive Web App
- Best Practices
The performance score measures how fast your content (text, images, videos) takes to load while offering suggestions to help speed up your website. Pagespeed Insights analyzes page speed in a similar manner, except for a few vital flaws. For example, a website that uses cascading style sheets (this tool loads data at the top of the website first, and continuously loads the rest of the website in a downward vertical fashion) loads content much faster than a traditional style web page. Although this loading method generally leads to a visual speed improvement, Pagespeed analyzes the entire page rather than through segmented “cascading” load times. Google Lighthouse now analyzes the performance advantage from “the fold” (what you first see on the web page) – down, simulating a user’s experience with a page load time.
Here’s a useful breakdown from Addy Osmani at Medium.
Progressive Web App
The “Progressive Web App” tool the Google Lighthouse service measures your website’s reliability, speed, and engagement. This test analyzes how well your website responds on mobile devices and tablets. A large part of your score is based on how your website adapts to different devices, networks and screen sizes. If your content is aligned in a single column on a smartphone but widens to two columns to fit a tablet’s larger screen, it is likely Google Lighthouse will recognize this efficiency.
Making sure all of your site’s pages are connected to individual URLs is important in the Progressive Web App category; these pages should be able to load at least partial content while users are offline or in airplane mode. Finally, Google Lighthouse checks off simple boxes such as ensuring your website works on different browsers, at high initial loading speeds—even on a 3G network.
The “Accessibility” test contains the highest number of audits, at 35. Its main goal is to rate how clear your website’s content is transmitted to visitors. These visitors include users of assistive technology; Google Lighthouse puts a high priority on delivering accessible content to all website users. To do well in the Accessibility audit, it is important for your website to have well-structured elements with discernible names that describe your content clearly.
Other Pagespeed Tools
There are other tools such as “Pingdom,” a free ping URL service, which scores you purely based on the time it takes to download everything from your website. This sounds simple and effective, however, Pingdom actually fails to take rendering time into account—a major drawback—unlike Google Lighthouse and Pagespeed Insights. As you can see, some of these page speed tools have limitations, but what about Google Lighthouse?
Is Lighthouse an effective audit tool to boost your search engine ranking?
Let’s take a deeper look into how much Google Lighthouse really helps measure Pagespeed. Remember, if you want to test Lighthouse out for yourself, all it takes is the press of a button (F12). If you have an older version of Chrome, you can download the Lighthouse chrome extension plug-in via their Chrome Plugins website.
Google Lighthouse brings the best from all worlds of testing google site speed, creating a powerful SEO/website-speed analyzing engine. Lighthouse checks website speed prioritizing the websites mobile form first—unlike Pagespeed Insights. This is important in a world where more than half of website interaction is done via smartphone. Also, while almost all mobile versions of websites load clearly on a desktop, the same cannot be said for desktop-origin based websites. Google Lighthouse allows us to perform a useful SEO audit. If we look at SunCity Advising SEO, a score of 100 is awarded—all ten audits were passed.
The SEO analyzer within Lighthouse checks for attributes including a title element, meta description, descriptive text, legible font size, and more. Obviously, these elements are not the only requirements of practicing effective search engine optimization, but it points out serious red flags that could decrease your search ranking, even with a speedy website.
PageSpeed matters. If your potential customer cannot find the information they are looking for, they will look elsewhere and abandon your sales acquisition funnel. Additionally, if Google determines that your website performance is substandard, your search engine ranking will suffer accordingly. Pagespeed Insight was a useful tool for the early SEOs and armchair digital marketers but Google has taken website auditing to the next level with progressive web apps, development and image compression.
Author: Daniel Barry
Daniel Barry is an Advisor at SunCity. His background is in digital marketing, SEO and operational management. His client portfolio includes successful partnerships with startups, small businesses, medium-sized firms & large corporations.
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