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How To Test Your Website Speed



How To Test Your Website Speed

Research from Google found that website bounce rates increase by as much as 31% from one-second to three-second load times.

In my experience, page load times are one of the most consistent technical errors web developers and web admins make, especially over mobile devices.

The first step to resolving page speed errors is understanding how websites load and identifying the most critical metrics, which lead to faster load times.

Understanding Page Speed: How Websites Load

The internet is very complicated.

So to simplify this explanation, we can break down the page load process into two essential components, which communicate with one another.

Clients <> Servers

  • Clients: A web device that sends a request over the internet to a server to render a webpage. Examples of clients include computer devices connected to WiFi, mobile devices connected to data plans, and browsers used to execute this function.
  • Servers: A computer that stores web addresses and attempts to render requests so clients can view a webpage. Servers may also be called the DNS (domain name system), which houses every address available over the internet.

Understanding the relationship between clients and servers will help you uncover any potential disruptions or increases in latency that plague your website page speed.

As everyone knows, the first step to loading a webpage is typing in the URL. This URL sends a request to a DNS, which fetches the unique IP address and processes the request on the web application’s server.

Once the request is processed, the user’s browser will send an HTML response to begin processing the Document Object Model (DOM). The time to receive this information is known as the time to first byte (TTFB) – a vital page load metric.

Once the browser processes the HTML response, it will map out the DOM and CSS Object Model to execute JavaScript.

Before accurate rendering of a page can begin, a browser needs to render all CSS and JavaScript elements, which means that if there are any external blocking scripts, that resource will need to be downloaded.

Then, another request between the browser and server must be made (increasing load times).

Once complete, a window load event will be triggered, and the page will fully load above the fold.

Also, note that pages with asynchronous loading will continue loading elements even after window load events are executed.

However, page load times will differ between desktop and mobile devices, depending on the mobile-friendliness of the website and the network the device uses to connect to the internet.

For example, Google establishes its benchmark for mobile page speeds to load by at least one second for all above-the-fold content so that users can interact with sites as soon as possible.

Since network latency over a 4G network will consume at least 300 milliseconds of page load times, you have 700 milliseconds to optimize a page to load above-the-fold content in at least one second.

Screenshot from, March 2023

Reaching this benchmark is possible but difficult.

So, why does Google recommend that pages load at least one second above the fold?

The Importance Of Website Speed

Since Google relies on positive customer experience to retain its market share, it only wants to serve sites that load quickly and efficiently.

As a result, it tends to prioritize pages that load faster than others. Furthermore, your analytics will tend to reflect this, as slower pages will incur higher bounce rates than faster pages.

Overall, there are several reasons why monitoring your page speed is essential:

  • User Experience: Users expect fast-loading pages over mobile and desktop devices. The slower your page, the more time it takes until the first interaction and the higher your bounce rate. Not only does this impact key user metrics, but it could also decrease your conversion rate and might impact your website revenue.
  • Google Algorithms: Research shows that Google places significance on page speed in its rankings algorithms, especially on mobile. How much this impacts rankings is unknown, but Google has stated that it prioritizes factors, such as its Core Web Vitals (metrics listed below).
  • Functionality and Processing: Page speed is another important component of website functionality and can impede basic processes, such as loading shopping carts or blog posts, which cause high bounce rates.
  • Authority and Trust: A fast-loading website communicates some level of trust and authority, whereas having a slow-loading website could communicate that your website is poorly built or even spammy.

With these factors in mind, you won’t be able to optimize your website’s page speed without uncovering issues that negatively influence it.

Furthermore, you’ll discover that page speeds differ across devices and locations, making the need for constant testing even more important.

Considerations When Running A Webpage Test

Not every page speed test or tool will deliver the same results.

For this reason, balancing these results and understanding what metrics to look after will give you the most unbiased results.


First and foremost, I would recommend testing sites with caching enabled and disabled to see the difference.

Most tools will typically ignore caching, but other tools like WordPress allow you to test page speeds with caching enabled.

Configure your caching to see if it interferes with your results or skews them from what you find on other tools.


Many people don’t account for location when testing page speeds, but people in different countries and regions will experience different load times depending on their network and server proximity.

I’ve even seen people reduce their website load times substantially by hosting their site on a geographically closer server or enabling a content delivery network (CDN) – a network of distributed servers.

Running Multiple Tests

As you will experience, each page speed test may deliver different results depending on anomalies with your website or network.

For this reason, I recommend running multiple tests on multiple tools for the most accurate results of what users are experiencing.


Finally, we must understand the metrics most important to our page load speeds.

Below, I’ve outlined a few that will influence page load speeds the most.

Page Load Time

This metric accounts for the total time it takes to load a page completely.

Google Analytics provides a page load time report for each of your URLs and even across different browsers.

Google AnalyticsScreenshot from Google Analytics, March 2023

Time To First Byte (TTFB)

This measures the time it takes for browsers to receive an HTML request from a server.

Poor TTFB scores could indicate that you have many large files on your website or need to move to a new server.

Number Of HTTP Requests

Every time your page needs to load a file, it sends a new request that could serve as a drain on page speeds.

Core Web Vitals

Core Web VitalsScreenshot from PageSpeed Insights, March 2023
  • Largest Contentful Paint: The time it takes to load the largest image or text element on a page. This metric measures how fast the actual loadout of your page renders visually.
  • First Input Delay: The time it takes for a user to interact with a page (i.e., click a link or scroll).
  • Cumulative Layout Shift: How stable your page is. In other words, it measures whether page elements shift once the page is loaded.

Field Vs. Lab Data

Finally, when measuring page speeds, it’s essential to differentiate between field and lab data.

Field data takes into account the historical load time of a page, whereas lab data provides data from a simulated test.

Google Analytics provides field data and a historical record of how long it takes, on average, to load pages on your site.

On the other hand, lab data, like Google’s Lighthouse, provides an approximate measurement of page load speeds under set variables.

Lab data is great for diagnosing specific issues, while field data is an excellent way to chart the progress and usability of your website over time.

With these tips in mind, let’s explore some of the best tools I recommend every site should try out to test its website speeds.

Best Tools To Test Website Speed

Google PageSpeed Insights

Google PageSpeed Insights is a free tool designed to diagnose specific opportunities where page speed is lacking.

Google PageSpeed InsightsScreenshot from PageSpeed Insights, March 2023

These suggestions will boost your page speed scores and increase your keyword rankings.

This tool also provides metrics for Core Web Vitals, time to interactivity, and its general speed index.

PageSpeed Insights uses Lighthouse, which provides lab data to estimate how pages load on a standard device with a good WiFi connection.

PageSpeed Insights is a useful first step for uncovering surface-level issues that can be easily resolved.


GTMetrix is an excellent audit tool for website page speeds that provides similar lab data as Google’s Lighthouse with even better visualization tools.

The Performance tab tells you everything you need to know about Core Web Vitals, and the Structure tab provides opportunities to improve page speeds.

GTMetrixScreenshot from GTMetrix, March 2023
GTMetrixScreenshot from GTMetrix, March 2023

However, my favorite tool on GTMetrix is the waterfall tab which allows you to visualize page load elements and how they influence page load times.

Waterfall tab: GTMetrixScreenshot from GTMetrix, March 2023


Pingdom is a paid tool, which is well worth the money if you need real-time page speed monitoring via its Real User Monitoring setting.

This tool allows both simulated lab data and real-time field data for you to see how your website performs over different devices, networks, and clients.

Pingdom also provides all the same metrics and actionable insights that other tools provide with ongoing support for your website.


From my standpoint, WebPageTest is the best free speed test tool you’ve ever heard of.

This tool provides all of the same lab data as Lighthouse, with the ability to test on multiple devices and networks.

Some of its most notable features include:

  • Waterfall.
  • Video of your page loadout.
  • Performance metrics.
  • Trace views.
  • Multiple tests at once.

Most importantly, you can see your website as it loads in real time with the Filmstrip View.

WebPage Speed TestScreenshot from WebPageTest, March 2023

WebPageTest even provides a neat little questionnaire, such as whether your website is quick, usable, or resilient, with answers to tell you where your site needs improvement.

Google Search Console

I highly recommend you access the Speed Report in Google Search Console for a more granular look at individual page speeds.

This report provides individual speed scores and overall performance across browsers and devices.

Google Search Console resultsScreenshot from, March 2023

Use Search Console to monitor any progress or changes to your site. Of course, you can also uncover a lot of the same data in Google Analytics.

New Relic

New Relic offers sophisticated tools to monitor page speeds over time, debug your code, and even clean up your plugins to channel faster site speed.

This tool requires a subscription, but it has useful features like alerting you when page speeds drop in real time after a change has been made to the site.

Tips To Improve Website Speed

While tools may point to individual issues with your website, there are some general best practices you can follow to improve your website page speeds.

Enable Compression

Large file and image sizes are a significant drag on any website, so enabling compression via an automated plugin can help.

There are dozens of plugins available for WordPress, including favorites like Optimole and WP Rocket that includes the Imagify plugin.


Caching is another easy win to boost website speeds rapidly for repeat customers.

Web or browser caching allows websites to store small bits of data on client-side devices, so fewer resources are fetched the next time they load a website.

Plugins like WP Rocket and WP Super Cache allow for caching and can significantly improve your user experience.

Lazy Loading

Another feature that caching tools like WP Rocket or LazyLoad offer is the ability to delay file loads until the user accesses them.

In other words, if you have images below the fold on a webpage, lazy loading allows a website to delay loading that image until a user scrolls down the page.

Optimize Your Server Location/CDN

Hosting your webpage on a geographically close server can significantly reduce latency and load times.

However, if you distribute content to a global audience, investing in a content delivery network (CDN) can greatly reduce latency times and load speeds for people worldwide.

Minify Resources

Besides images, CSS and JavaScript will be the two largest elements of any webpage that are required to load.

Therefore, minifying or eliminating unnecessary CSS and JavaScript resources, such as duplicate data, will reduce the number of requests and downloads a client and server must execute to load a page properly.

Reduce Plugins And Unnecessary Code

Finally, eliminating unnecessary resources, such as large backend plugins, will free up resources on your website and put less stress on devices as they try to load your website.

Unfortunately, it’s too common for WordPress site owners to leave behind legacy plugins long after they’ve served their purpose, which can greatly impact a website’s efficiency and functionality.


Now that you understand how to test your website speed and what metrics to look for, you can implement solutions to increase your website speed and monitor how they impact your SEO rankings.

While website speed is one of many factors, the benefits of a fast-loading website will significantly outweigh any of the costs you put into it.

More Resources: 

Featured Image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

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Want to learn how you can mitigate privacy risks and boost ROI through data standards?

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Learn the key ways to level up your data strategy to pinpoint campaign success.

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96.55% of Content Gets No Traffic From Google. Here’s How to Be in the Other 3.45% [New Research for 2023]



96.55% of Content Gets No Traffic From Google. Here's How to Be in the Other 3.45% [New Research for 2023]

It’s no secret that the web is growing by millions, if not billions of pages per day.

Our Content Explorer tool discovers 10 million new pages every 24 hours while being very picky about the pages that qualify for inclusion. The “main” Ahrefs web crawler crawls that number of pages every two minutes. 

But how much of this content gets organic traffic from Google?

To find out, we took the entire database from our Content Explorer tool (around 14 billion pages) and studied how many pages get traffic from organic search and why.

How many web pages get organic search traffic?

96.55% of all pages in our index get zero traffic from Google, and 1.94% get between one and ten monthly visits.

Distribution of pages by traffic from Content Explorer

Before we move on to discussing why the vast majority of pages never get any search traffic from Google (and how to avoid being one of them), it’s important to address two discrepancies with the studied data:

  1. ~14 billion pages may seem like a huge number, but it’s not the most accurate representation of the entire web. Even compared to the size of Site Explorer’s index of 340.8 billion pages, our sample size for this study is quite small and somewhat biased towards the “quality side of the web.”
  2. Our search traffic numbers are estimates. Even though our database of ~651 million keywords in Site Explorer (where our estimates come from) is arguably the largest database of its kind, it doesn’t contain every possible thing people search for in Google. There’s a chance that some of these pages get search traffic from super long-tail keywords that are not popular enough to make it into our database.

That said, these two “inaccuracies” don’t change much in the grand scheme of things: the vast majority of published pages never rank in Google and never get any search traffic. 

But why is this, and how can you be a part of the minority that gets organic search traffic from Google?

Well, there are hundreds of SEO issues that may prevent your pages from ranking well in Google. But if we focus only on the most common scenarios, assuming the page is indexed, there are only three of them.

Reason 1: The topic has no search demand

If nobody is searching for your topic, you won’t get any search traffic—even if you rank #1.

For example, I recently Googled “pull sitemap into google sheets” and clicked the top-ranking page (which solved my problem in seconds, by the way). But if you plug that URL into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, you’ll see that it gets zero estimated organic search traffic:

The top-ranking page for this topic gets no traffic because there's no search demandThe top-ranking page for this topic gets no traffic because there's no search demand

This is because hardly anyone else is searching for this, as data from Keywords Explorer confirms:

Keyword data from Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer confirms that this topic has no search demandKeyword data from Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer confirms that this topic has no search demand

This is why it’s so important to do keyword research. You can’t just assume that people are searching for whatever you want to talk about. You need to check the data.

Our Traffic Potential (TP) metric in Keywords Explorer can help with this. It estimates how much organic search traffic the current top-ranking page for a keyword gets from all the queries it ranks for. This is a good indicator of the total search demand for a topic.

You’ll see this metric for every keyword in Keywords Explorer, and you can even filter for keywords that meet your minimum criteria (e.g., 500+ monthly traffic potential): 

Filtering for keywords with Traffic Potential (TP) in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerFiltering for keywords with Traffic Potential (TP) in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Reason 2: The page has no backlinks

Backlinks are one of Google’s top three ranking factors, so it probably comes as no surprise that there’s a clear correlation between the number of websites linking to a page and its traffic.

Pages with more referring domains get more trafficPages with more referring domains get more traffic
Pages with more referring domains get more traffic

Same goes for the correlation between a page’s traffic and keyword rankings:

Pages with more referring domains rank for more keywordsPages with more referring domains rank for more keywords
Pages with more referring domains rank for more keywords

Does any of this data prove that backlinks help you rank higher in Google?

No, because correlation does not imply causation. However, most SEO professionals will tell you that it’s almost impossible to rank on the first page for competitive keywords without backlinks—an observation that aligns with the data above.

The key word there is “competitive.” Plenty of pages get organic traffic while having no backlinks…

Pages with more referring domains get more trafficPages with more referring domains get more traffic
How much traffic pages with no backlinks get

… but from what I can tell, almost all of them are about low-competition topics.

For example, this lyrics page for a Neil Young song gets an estimated 162 monthly visits with no backlinks: 

Example of a page with traffic but no backlinks, via Ahrefs' Content ExplorerExample of a page with traffic but no backlinks, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer

But if we check the keywords it ranks for, they almost all have Keyword Difficulty (KD) scores in the single figures:

Some of the low-difficulty keywords a page without traffic ranks forSome of the low-difficulty keywords a page without traffic ranks for

It’s the same story for this page selling upholstered headboards:

Some of the low-difficulty keywords a page without traffic ranks forSome of the low-difficulty keywords a page without traffic ranks for

You might have noticed two other things about these pages:

  • Neither of them get that much traffic. This is pretty typical. Our index contains ~20 million pages with no referring domains, yet only 2,997 of them get more than 1K search visits per month. That’s roughly 1 in every 6,671 pages with no backlinks.
  • Both of the sites they’re on have high Domain Rating (DR) scores. This metric shows the relative strength of a website’s backlink profile. Stronger sites like these have more PageRank that they can pass to pages with internal links to help them rank. 

Bottom line? If you want your pages to get search traffic, you really only have two options:

  1. Target uncompetitive topics that you can rank for with few or no backlinks.
  2. Target competitive topics and build backlinks to rank.

If you want to find uncompetitive topics, try this:

  1. Enter a topic into Keywords Explorer
  2. Go to the Matching terms report
  3. Set the Keyword Difficulty (KD) filter to max. 20
  4. Set the Lowest DR filter to your site’s DR (this will show you keywords with at least one of the same or lower DR ranking in the top 5)
Filtering for low-competition keywords in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerFiltering for low-competition keywords in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

(Remember to keep an eye on the TP column to make sure they have traffic potential.)

To rank for more competitive topics, you’ll need to earn or build high-quality backlinks to your page. If you’re not sure how to do that, start with the guides below. Keep in mind that it’ll be practically impossible to get links unless your content adds something to the conversation. 

Reason 3. The page doesn’t match search intent

Google wants to give users the most relevant results for a query. That’s why the top organic results for “best yoga mat” are blog posts with recommendations, not product pages. 

It's obviously what searchers want when they search for "best yoga mats"It's obviously what searchers want when they search for "best yoga mats"

Basically, Google knows that searchers are in research mode, not buying mode.

It’s also why this page selling yoga mats doesn’t show up, despite it having backlinks from more than six times more websites than any of the top-ranking pages:

Page selling yoga mats that has lots of backlinksPage selling yoga mats that has lots of backlinks
Number of linking websites to the top-ranking pages for "best yoga mats"Number of linking websites to the top-ranking pages for "best yoga mats"

Luckily, the page ranks for thousands of other more relevant keywords and gets tens of thousands of monthly organic visits. So it’s not such a big deal that it doesn’t rank for “best yoga mats.”

Number of keyword rankings for the page selling yoga matsNumber of keyword rankings for the page selling yoga mats

However, if you have pages with lots of backlinks but no organic traffic—and they already target a keyword with traffic potential—another quick SEO win is to re-optimize them for search intent.

We did this in 2018 with our free backlink checker.

It was originally nothing but a boring landing page explaining the benefits of our product and offering a 7-day trial: 

Original landing page for our free backlink checkerOriginal landing page for our free backlink checker

After analyzing search intent, we soon realized the issue:

People weren’t looking for a landing page, but rather a free tool they could use right away. 

So, in September 2018, we created a free tool and published it under the same URL. It ranked #1 pretty much overnight, and has remained there ever since. 

Our rankings over time for the keyword "backlink checker." You can see when we changed the pageOur rankings over time for the keyword "backlink checker." You can see when we changed the page

Organic traffic went through the roof, too. From ~14K monthly organic visits pre-optimization to almost ~200K today. 

Estimated search traffic over time to our free backlink checkerEstimated search traffic over time to our free backlink checker


96.55% of pages get no organic traffic. 

Keep your pages in the other 3.45% by building backlinks, choosing topics with organic traffic potential, and matching search intent.

Ping me on Twitter if you have any questions. 🙂

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