How to Speed Test Your Website – The Ultimate Guide

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So, you want to speed test your website? Of course you do, a quick load time is an essential part of any online strategy. Luckily, there are some user-friendly tools out there to help you get the job done.

The four most popular speed test tools are Google’s PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom Tools, GTmetrix, and WebPage Test (WebPage Test is a little too advanced for beginners so we won’t focus on it in this article). Each one will give you a slightly different result so watch out… more on this later.

In this article, we’ll show you how to run a speed test like a pro and also take a quick look at the best way to approach the page speed results.

First, you might want to read our article 7 Tips for Easy Page Speed Testing which takes you through some common testing mistakes. It’s a quick read that’ll turn you into a top class page speed tester in less than 10 minutes.

For now, we’ll just focus on the testing process itself. See below for a step-by-step guide.

How to Speed Test your Website

1. Grab a URL to Test

To speed test your website, simply go to the webpage you want to test and copy the URL exactly as it’s displayed in your browser. As we mentioned in our 7 Tips for Easy Page Speed Testing, you can only test individual webpages and not actual websites.

You might want to start by testing your homepage and then moving on to other high-traffic, high-value pages. Landing pages, online tools, or other key webpages should all be individually tested. They often require special tuning.

When testing our own site we must use the full url as it appears in the browser. That means including https://www.

2. Go to a Page Speed Testing Tool

Now, take that URL you just copied exactly as it appeared in your browser and head on over to your favorite page speed tester. The big three are Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom Tools, and GTmetrix.

You might want to start with GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights to start with. There’s no point confusing yourself with too many test results.

Paste the URL into the empty box for now but don’t analyze it just yet. To get the most out of the test you will want to set your location.

3. Location, Location, Location!

You’ll want to set the correct location to better understand the wait time your visitors experience. Both GTmetrix and Pingdom Tools allow you to choose from different testing locations around the world.

If your audience is scattered across the globe, just do a test for each area to get an average. It’s best practice to have your servers located in the same location as the bulk of your customers. The shorter the distance between your server and your visitors, the quicker the load time.

To access the locations feature on GTmetrix you must first sign up to a free account. I highly recommend you do this as you will also get priority in the testing queue. Who doesn’t love a bit of VIP treatment?

Once you’ve signed up to GTmetrix, you can access the following test locations: Vancouver, Canada; Dallas, USA; Hong Kong, China; London, UK; Mumbai, India; Sydney, Australia; and Sao Paulo, Brasil.

Pingdom Tools offer testing locations at Tokyo, Japan; London, United Kingdom; Washington D.C., North America; San Francisco, North America; Sydney, Australia; Sao Paulo, Brasil.

Google PageSpeed Insights does not offer an option to change your test location. Perhaps they’ll add this feature in the future.

4. Run the Page Speed Test

Once you have the exact URL and the correct location set, it’s time to analyze the page. Just hit the button and wait for the results to come through.

5. Making Sense of the Page Speed Test Results

Your chosen page speed testing tool will now give you a result and list of recommendations. This is tricky because each testing tool will give slightly different results and some offer better recommendations than others.

For example, WebPage Test is widely regarded as the most reliable tool for actual load time, while GTmetrix and Google PageSpeed give really useful recommendations.

Note: The GTmetrix “Fully Loaded Time” is a perfect metric to use. WebPage Test just offers more locations, different browsers, and a host of other options. It’s designed for professionals so just stick with GTmetrix.

It’s important to remember that your load time is the key metric and not the score you receive. The score is just a useful guide and nothing more, load time makes users leave your site and load time is what Google will penalize you for.

The best strategy is just to take note of the load time in GTmetrix and then use the recommendations from both Google PageSpeed and GTmetrix. Then you’ll know how your site is performing and where the problem areas are.

6. Get Tuning

The next obvious step is to fix all the errors and get your website running lightning fast. Some recommendations such as minification, render blocking scripts, and large images can be fixed with a plugin. Here are some plugins we use at Load Labz:

WP-Rocket – for page caching, gzipping, lazy loading, and other useful settings
Autoptimize – for concatenation and minification only
Imagify – to optimize image file type and for its powerful compression featur

Just be careful when using the above plugins if you have no development experience. Test your website for style errors after installing each plugin and test again after you turn on or off any settings. Also, keep a log of each change you make so you can pinpoint the one which caused the error.

You will also want to run a speed test after turning on/off any optimization settings. This will let you clearly see what works and what does not. Adding each change to your log will also help you see which settings are having the biggest impact.

All this is covered in the 7 Tips to Easy Page Speed Testing article I mentioned earlier. We also give you a free testing log template to use and explain how to use it.

7. Contact a Professional Page Speed Optimization Service

If you’re still having trouble, you might want to hire a professional. Yes, this is where I shamelessly promote the services of Load Labz.

The truth is, sometimes a few plugins will fix the issue and sometimes they can break your website. If you find yourself a bit stuck or just don’t have the time to dedicate to researching all the terms and settings, get in touch and we’ll start speeding up your website immediately.