I have talked about Google Pagespeed Insights a lot on the website. This page speed score report is crucial for your rankings as Google is literally telling you what you need to do on your website to make your pages load faster. This is why people are chasing those high page speed scores so that they look to Google in hopes of ranking high on the search engine. There is another similar page speed analyzer called GTMetrix. I do not use this one as often as Google’s. There are many reasons why Google is better than GTMetrix and that is the focus of this article.
Free Version Evaluation
First, before I get too far into this article, I would like to state that I will evaluate and review the free version of GTMetrix. You can optionally create an account and get a few more features like the ability to save your tests and e-mail test results to you weekly. This is truly optional and not something that you absolutely need to do. If you are curious and want to, then try it. The good thing about using GTMetrix is that it is good enough without registering for an account. So this is why I am just evaluating the free version without an account.
Looking for a Second Opinion? Try GTMetrix
GTMetrix is great as a second opinion so that you do not have to take Google’s word for it. You should also run your web pages against GTMetrix and see if there are similarities in the scores. If there are differences then there is a possibility that GTMetrix found something that Google has not.
Test a Page Several Times and Note the Variation in Scores
This is why you should run both Google and GTMetrix a few times when testing a page just to see if there is any fluctuation in the scorces. If you test a page more than once, then you will see variation in the scores and be able to get a score range. For Google, let us say your mobile version of a page ranges from 60-80 points. This is great because you need to assume that some of your users will hit your page with a score at 60. This means that you need to optimize that page according to Google’s suggestions. GTMetrix gives a similar percentage score out of a 100% and then gives you an overall letter grade.
Good if You Want Another Explanation on How the Metrics Work
If you click on the “Structure” tab and then the arrows, you will see a button that shows you how to improve an issue with your website. Sometimes you need to have the same concept explained a few different ways before you truly understand it. We all learn differently and it helps to have GTMetrix explain the same issues that show up Google, but in their own way. This can help you think of the issues in a different way that might help you resolve them.
Uses the Same Metrics As Google Pagespeed Insights
If you head over to the “Performance” tab, you will see the same main metrics at the top as in Google. There are some different metrics if you scroll down to “Browser Timings”. Some of the browser timing metrics are exclusive to GTMetrix. Take some time to go through each one and read up on what each one means. They actually give you some very good insight into what you should do to keep your website fast. I will discuss the ones that I feel anyone can benefit from knowing.
This one sounds obvious but I want to delve into some more. Redirection is when one URL goes to another one.
There are several reasons why URL do this:
- Force URLs to use SSL certificates so “http” redirects to “https”.
- Old pages have been removed and their URLs redirect to a new page
- Page have been updated with a new URL and their old URL must redirect to their new URL
- Some URLs are purely for marketing and redirect to an actual page
- You move your website to a brand new domain and need to redirect all old URLs to their new domain
Redirecting URLs is a very important part of SEO because you need to be sure that your pages are always working. If you removed those pages and they no longer exist, then send them somewhere where they can be of use. Worst case, you have old pages redirect to a 404 page. I will not go into too much detail on redirection but will bring up one more point.
Be careful not to add too many redirects when taking a user from page A to B. One redirect is okay but more than that is too many. More redirects mean that it is taking longer for users to reach their destination and that hurts the user experience and therefore SEO.
Think of redirects as this way:
- A -> B
- A -> B -> C -> D -> E -> F
In the first case, A redirects to B. This is very simple and the user should not notice too much of a page load. The second case however, A goes to B, then C, then D, then E, and finally reaches F. This is way too many steps to get to page F. Ideally, you should go through your website and link directly to page F instead of going through all of the pages in-between. Also consider the fact that in the second case, if any of the pages in-between are gone, then you have no clear path from A to F because a page in the middle is missing.
This is another browser timing metric that I would like to go over. This will be technical because the back-end deals with the server and not the browser. On the server, you will have some kind of back-end language, in the case of WordPress, it is PHP.
This language, PHP, will call queries to interact with the database and retrieve information from it. This is important to know because as your website grows, so does the information on it. That information is stored in a database that PHP needs in order to retrieve data and display it to users. So the time that is spent in the backend is something that you should be aware of. Optimizing the backend might include optimizing queries so that they only retrieve the necessary data to display on a page and nothing more.
Fully Loaded Time
There are a lot of time metrics that measure every single page of page loading. Once that is all done, you are probably most interested in the final number that represents when everything has finally loaded and the user can interact and use the page. This is the metric that is good for those who just want to know, “How long did it take to load everything?” Then this is the metric for you.
Free Version Only Checks Desktop Version: Limited Usefulness
There is one very glaring caveat with the free version of GTMetrix, it only runs tests on desktop versions of web pages. This is very important to know since Google has already implemented an “mobile-first” initiative for adding your pages to Google. So mobile comes first because most people are accessing the Web on their phones more than large bulky desktops. If you want to test mobile on GTMetrix, you will have to sign-up and purchase a product. Again, you can just use Google Pagespeed Insights and be set. Using GTMetrix for mobile is gravy. You have more than enough resources at your disposal without the need to buy anything.
Waterfall Chart: Shows Asset Load Time
The waterfall chart is one of the things that I use the most in GTMetrix. This might be the one feature that I like more in GTMetrix than Google. Google has a treemap but it does not list your page assets in a nice graph like GTMetrix does. GTMetrix has an easy-to-read graph where you can see how large each asset is and how long it takes to load each of them. I also like how I can see the order that the assets load in so I can tell which assets depend on each other. This is important for resolving issues that involve eliminating render blocking resources. If HTML is waiting for some CSS or JS first, then you have to resolve that.
Which is Better? Google or GTMetrix?
Overall, I would say that Google Pagespeed Insights is better than GTMetrix. One of the main reasons why is because Google can test both mobile and desktop at the same time for free. GTMetrix can only test desktop for free and mobile on a paid account. Since the Google search engine prioritizes indexing mobile pages above desktop, then you need to be able to test your mobile pages.
Another reason why Google is better is because it has a simpler layout where all the information that you need is just right there without having to click on tabs. GTMetrix does have nice graphs for visualization but it does take more to click around to see everything. Google does not have those fancy graphs but it just gives you the numbers all at once.
Even though GTMetrix is usually seen as just the alternative to Google Page Insights, it is still good to use to see how its numbers compare to Google. As mentioned before, this is really about leveraging as many tools as you can. When you use these tools, they might give you similar results, but they present them to you in another light.
Google Created Pagespeed So This One is More Important
Again, since Google created its own tool, you should focus on this one more. If you have good scores on Google, as in 90+ for both mobile and desktop then you should be good to go. You can check your scores in GTMetrix as a comparison but that is just for added reassurance. If you are going through the speed issues on Google and need some more guidance, then you should use GTMetrix. I see GTMetrix as being useful when your scores are low and you need another resource.
GTMetrix is good enough as a free version with no signup account. If you are using Google Pagespeed Insights and want another opinion, then try GTMetrix. GTMetrix uses the same metrics as Google but explains them in their own words. This might help you understand the page speed metrics in another way. Make sure that you test your pages several times using each one since score fluctuation is common. GTMetrix comes with some timing metrics that include redirection, backend and fully loaded.
Make note that the free version of GTMetrix only tests the desktop version of web pages and not mobile. Mobile page speed testing requires a paid account. No problem since Google tests for both mobile and desktop. So mobile testing on GTMetrix is unnecessary and you can just stay with using it for free.
The waterfall chart is probably the best part of GTMetrix as it shows you the load order of assets, how large each asset is and when it starts loading. This is great to know which assets are dependent on each other since this is important for eliminating render blocking resources.
Even though Google Pagespeed Insights is still better overall than GTMetrix, GTMetrix still has its place. The best part is that you can use both of them and do not have to pick one over the other. So the next time that you go through your web pages and need another way to check them, try out GTMetrix. GTMetrix might actually help you resolve your page speed issues.
If you came here because you want your slow website to be faster, then take a look at my comprehensive guide. This guide might help you out and make your pages load faster.