After months of exploration, design, and development you’re finally ready to go live with your client’s new website. Voila!
“It looks great, but I checked it on Google Page Speed and I have only 62 on mobile. Can you get it up to 100?”
Oh boy. What’s a good answer here? To implement changes at this point would risk your whole margin on the project since it could create a loop of fixes and new issues.
Don’t worry, we are here to help.
How important is page speed, really?
At least since 2018, page speed is a significant factor for SEO and it’s always been a pretty important factor for user experience. We build WordPress sites for agencies in the US and around the world, and we saw a big spike in interest for page speed during the fall of 2018.
But getting to 100 is not important, and it’s often impractical as this article on Moz’s blog will tell you.
Think about it. If you spend that much effort on getting the page speed perfect, is that the best way you can improve usefulness for the visitors? Probably not, and that’s what Google’s algorithms are striving towards measuring.
The #1 Google results for “web design [city]” in 5 major US cities averaged 36 on mobile and 72 on desktop in Google PageSpeed
Let’s see how agencies themselves are doing. I searched for “web design [city]” for the first 5 large cities in the US that came to my mind. The top results had the following page speed according to Google’s own speed check when I reviewed them:
- Boston: 43 mobile, 73 desktop
- Chicago: 39 mobile, 72 desktop
- Miami: 7 mobile, 58 desktop
- Seattle: 33 mobile, 73 desktop
- Atlanta: 58 mobile, 85 desktop
So great page speed is definitely not necessary for being #1 on Google for a popular keyword. However, it’s still important and correlates with a higher ranking so you don’t want to ignore it altogether.
If they insist you improve their page speed, here’s what you do
For many agencies, the contract is already signed and the money already paid at this point. With no direct incentive to spend hours to improve a page speed score that you never promised them, you still know that customer satisfaction is everything.
So the first thing to do is to analyze what is causing the low page speed. The good thing is that any of the big testing tools will tell you. We like Google PageSpeed, Pingdom and the Chrome developer tools.
Going too deeply into the tactics is beyond the scope of this article, and there are other resources out there that will help you. I’m a fan of this article on WP Beginner and they list 5 common causes of poor page speed:
- Web Hosting
- WordPress Configuration
- Page Size
- Bad Plugins
- External scripts
As you can see, most of the reasons for poor page speed depend on how your development team has built the site. However, sometimes the reason for the slow performance is what your client specifically asked you to do. So let’s go through these 5 causes of slow page speed to discuss what you can do or say to resolve the situation for your client.
1. Web hosting
The most common that I’ve seen is that a client (i.e. your client, the website owner) already has a hosting that they prefer to keep. If it’s slow – recommend them an upgrade to a better one, maybe including your own retainer contract.
You get what you pay for and there are many good options that our partners use, but WP Engine is probably the favorite among them.
2. WordPress configuration
W3 Total Cache and WP Rocket are two well-known examples of such plugins, but you need to make sure that your hosting provider allows them. WP Engine recommends WP Rocket and doesn’t allow W3 Total Cache for instance.
Another easy fix in this area is to install Lazy Load, which serves the page assets as you scroll instead of loading them all right away.
3. Page size
Before we deliver sites to our partners, we make sure the images are optimized for the web. We use TinyPNG for this, but there are many ways to accomplish it.
However, your clients may have provided you the impossible task of “making that hero video perfect quality” or been into the admin page to upload their own images in high-res.
So going through the media library and optimizing all the assets is a good first step, and if needed you can set the images to load different source files for desktop and on mobile.
4. Bad plugins
Don’t use bad plugins, period. There are so many more reasons for that than page speed.
But it could be that you haven’t found the right plugin for this particular project, so go back and reevaluate if needed. Slider plugins are common enemies of speed, and you can look at Slick Slider as a faster option. We like it!
5. External scripts
External scripts may be running because your client has a system for chats, or loading information and ads onto their page. In those cases, fixes will be very tricky.
But if you’re running fonts or other assets externally, it could be a simple fix. Check what the speed analytics tool is telling you to remove.
If all else fails
- Tell your client to be patient and see how well their new site performs before making any changes
- Ask us for help, or a company that specializes in fixes (we mainly do full website builds)
Some page speed issues are quick to resolve, and with the help of your development team you should be able to get a pretty good score that will fulfill the needs of most website owners. If not, there are more articles you can read and tricks you can use than what we’ve covered here.
But unless page speed was a key argument when you sold the site, chances are it has enough value already for your client to start enjoying it.