Even the best websites deemed to be the most user-friendly sites might not be effective and fail to drive traffic if it takes too much time to open the web pages. Users have a brief attention span and expect web pages to open in 2-3 seconds or closest to it, failing which they would move over to some other website. Besides losing valuable traffic, poor website speed can bring down search rankings as Google considers website speed a ranking factor, explains an expert at an SEO company in India.
Since 2018 when mobile devices started gaining popularity, Google has always put mobile devices ahead of PCs because of the rising number of mobile device users, which is now much higher than PC users. The introduction of Mobile First Indexing is Google’s perfect response to recognizing the importance of mobile device users who have expanded the market considerably. As mobile device users connect to the internet from anywhere, anytime and even when they are on the move, they rely heavily on speedy page opening to perform their tasks smoothly.
As Google keeps up its efforts in providing the best user experience, website speed becomes a focal point of discussion. To survive in the intensely competitive market, having speedy websites is a must for businesses. Faster is the website speed, better user experience, and more traffic will flow to the website. Slow websites are a bane for business as it increases bounce rate and diminishes traffic to the website, declining rapidly and ultimately killing the business.
The target website speed
According to Google, the ideal page loading time for websites should be 2 seconds but achieving the target might be pretty tough. On a realistic evaluation of average website speed, the page loading time of 3-4 seconds is quite acceptable globally. However, this might vary slightly based on local conditions, but the closer you are to the target, the better the overall website performance in terms of visitor engagement and traffic flow.
Crossing the threshold level could push down the website ranking and reduce the traffic flow, which can hit businesses adversely. On the contrary, improving the page speed will have the opposite effects as traffic flow and engagement increase and result in more leads and higher conversions. Since user experience directly impacts conversion, businesses must ensure that the website speed pleases the visitors who keep coming back to enjoy the excellent experience and spend more time on the website.
To help website owners maintain high-speed websites, Google keeps providing various tools for increasing the website speed. Users were already familiar with the Page Speed Insights; now there is The Lighthouse, the latest tool that helps to improve overall website performance.
What is Google Lighthouse?
The Lighthouse is the automated open-source tool introduced by Google that helps carry out technical website audits that focus on various aspects like website performance for website speed, accessibility, SEO, and best practices. By using the tool, you can gather powerful insights about your website and the report generated by the Lighthouse. You can assess the page experience that allows you to view your website performance from the user’s perspective. You can gather valuable tips for improving your website performance. Moreover, as you are using a Google tool, you can see your website from Google’s perspective.
The tool is easy to use and provides actionable insights as the detailed page experience would be visible to you in just a few clicks.
Look at the core web vitals
The purpose of The Lighthouse is to focus on the core web vitals that revolve around website accessibility, website speed and overall performance. Google developed the metrics of core web vitals that point to the overall user experience and website speed. The latest Google update in 2021 to the Core Web Vitals algorithm provides valuable insights about the metrics.
The key Core Web Vitals comprise of the following:
Largest Contentful Paint or LCP refers to the time taken by the largest content to load above the fold and is an essential factor influencing page speed.
First input delay (FID) – It is the time taken by a page to take action after the users interacts.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – The amount of content keeps shifting or moving as the page loads.
When taken together, the Core Web Vitals point at the page loading speed, which affects the overall website performance.
Focus on the crucial areas with The Lighthouse
Until the introduction of the Lighthouse, Google’s Page Insights was the tool for assessing website performance. Page Speed Insight is also an auditing tool that lists the possible improvements of your website and assigns a score to the website speed. Although Page Speed Insights reports encompass overall website performance, the emphasis is more on the website speed, but the scope of The Lighthouse is much more comprehensive.
Light House reports have five categories – performance, best practices, SEO, accessibility and progressive web app. As Google has confirmed the inclusion of mobile experience and load speed into its algorithm, the Lighthouse report gives you a clear picture of your performance level in these crucial areas.
Find the areas of improvement
Website speed is crucial for website performance but too much emphasis on it could distract you from some other aspects of the report and adversely affect the website performance. The Lighthouse is an auditing tool that helps to audit every web page and find areas of improvement. By expanding each section, you can gather more insights and identify the places that need improvement. Moreover, after making the improvements, you can again generate Lighthouse reports to see the score improvement.
The metrics will give you an idea of the page loading time and how users perceive the time it takes to start interacting with the page. The Lighthouse helps you look beyond page speed per se and focuses on the time taken by users to interact with the website appropriately, which has a massive impact on user experience.