7 Reasons Why You Can’t Get a Good Google PageSpeed Score

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You’ve all heard that Google factors their PageSpeed score algorithm into rankings. But, you just haven’t been able to score well on it. So what are the reasons that you score poorly, and what can you do about it?

1. You don’t understand what Google wants you to do

Google gives you a bunch of recommendations. But, if you aren’t well versed in techie speak, they are basically a foreign language.

Let’s start with the headings:

  • Possible Optimizations – this is where Google says you could, in theory, improve. Possibly.
  • Optimizations Found – this is what you’ve already done right and Google is happy with. Good job!

Here are a sample site’s PageSpeed results. You’ll see these two sections. Possible optimizations are on top with a list of 4 items. Optimizations found is lower on the page with the details hidden. Since you don’t need to improve items that are already optimized, those results are hidden.

The last item on the page is the Download optimized image, JavaScript, and CSS resources for this page. That gives you the ability to download already optimized files.

results of google pagespeed test

On the possible optimizations, if you click on Show how to fix, then it will expand and show you the details of the complaints. Below you can see that the images loaded from external twitter feed could be compressed.

optimize images recommendation expanded

If you’re on WordPress and you’d like your PageSpeed & YSlow results explained to you with actionable things you can do, you can Get a WordPress Speed Audit.

2. Your images are huge

Images are the most common reason for low PageSpeed scores. On most sites images account for more than 50% of the downloaded content, so you can get some really big wins by optimizing your images.

As a general rule: most images on your website should be under 100KB. Large full-size backgrounds will frequently be larger than this, but definitely, keep all images under 500KB.

You’ll know if your images are bigger than they need to be if you see Optimize images.

Here Google is thoughtful, they give you the ability to download the already optimized images at the bottom of the PageSpeed report. Then all you have to do is upload those images to replace the ones on your site.

If you are using WordPress, WP Smush is a great plugin. It also includes the ability to automatically resize your images as well as compress them. If you have multiple people contributing to your site and they do not resize and compress their images before uploading, this plugin can save you a ton of grief and significantly speed up your site.

Note: if you have a social media feed displayed on your website, then likely every image in the feed will be complained about. Some methods of displaying feeds allow you to remove images from displaying.

3. Internal vs external resources

There are two types of resources that a page can load, internal and external.

  • Internal resources – these are resources on your own site that you have control over.
  • External resources – these are resources that you load from elsewhere on the internet and have no control over.

These resources will most commonly show up in the Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content and Leverage browser caching.

Here’s what you can do about render blocking resources:

  • Internal resources you can frequently combine into one by just downloading the optimized JavaScript and CSS files at the bottom of the PageSpeed report. Or, if you have a CMS like WordPress, use a plugin like Autoptimize to handle combining items for you. Some resources when combined may stop working though, so make sure that your changes are reversible.
  • External resources you may be able to make internal. If you are loading fonts from the web, you can frequently load them from your own server instead.
  • Some internal resources you can remove from loading. Themes or plugins on your site may load resources they don’t actually need because you aren’t using that feature. So, you can add some code to your site to specifically prevent those resources from being loaded.
  • Some resources you can replace with something else that requires fewer things to be loaded.
  • Other resources there may be nothing you can do about. If you need the external resources and can’t substitute anything, then you’re stuck.

Here’s what you can do about browser caching:

  • Add some code to your .htaccess file or contact your hosting company about enabling browser caching for internal resources.
  • Nothing you can do about external resources and browser caching.

Resources can be a bit confusing, so if you’d like some help, you can Get a WordPress Speed Audit.

4. Minify your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

Minify is pretty much what it sounds like, making something smaller. This is done by removing extra stuff in the file. This extra stuff is generally tabs, spaces, and new lines. You know, all of the stuff that makes it easy for a human to read but it’s really important for a computer.

There are three basic types of things you can make smaller: HTML; CSS; and JavaScript. In an ideal world, you would send no more than one of each of these file types, and they would each be minified.

We don’t live in an ideal world.

Most sites have a lot of these files that get loaded. But, you can frequently combine a number of them together to make them smaller, and you can almost always remove the extra stuff.

If you are using WordPress, Autoptimize is a very good plugin for this. Most sites can use HTML & CSS minify without any problems. Whether or not JS minify works depends on exactly what plugins and themes you are using.

5. Compress with gzip

If you’ve ever compressed a file on your computer, you know that the compressed file takes up less space than the original one. The same principle applies on the web, compressed data takes up less space. And when you can make something smaller, it transfers faster.

So, what they want here is for you to turn on compression on your web server so that it can make the files smaller and then the smaller files will transfer faster. This means people visiting your website get the files faster, and are happier.

This one is typically a very easy win. On most web servers you can enable gzip compression with a small addition to your .htaccess file or by contacting your hosting support.

6. Avoid redirects & prioritize content

Redirects are pretty simple. They are a lot like a scavenger hunt. You go to a location and it sends you to another location. The more intermediate locations you have to visit, the longer it takes to get to your final destination.

So, if you see the avoid landing page redirects complaint, it means that visitors are having to go on a scavenger hunt to get to their final destination. This takes longer.

Generally, you can fix this one just by entering the correct final destination into the PageSpeed tool. If that doesn’t work, then there is likely something such as an A/B split test happening which is causing redirects.

Prioritize visible content is about the “above the fold” content of your page. Basically, they want the above the fold content to load quickly and with very few resources needed. If you are seeing this one come up, it’s likely because you need to load a lot of data above the fold, or because your design or theme requires a number of extra resources like CSS and JS.

7.  Your server is slow

If you are seeing Reduce server response time than Google wants you to reduce your server response time to under 200ms.

  • Optimize your database – most content management systems use a database, and over time that database can become bloated. It’s a good idea to regularly use a database optimization tool to clean up the bloat.
  • Cache, cache, cache – caching pages on your server pre-builds the page. This means that when someone requests it, the server delivers the pre-built page. That’s a lot less work for the server, so the server can fulfill the request and respond with an answer much faster.
  • Move to better hosting – let’s face it, some hosting providers are just crappy. Low quality, slow servers with a slow connection to those servers. That means even with a very lean site, you can’t get a fast response. A quick way to test if your server is just crap is to run a speed test on a simple HTML or txt file on the server. If that’s slow, then you need to move hosts. You can also do a whois lookup on your domain and see how many other sites are also on your server. The more sites on your server, the slower it is likely to be.

Want your site’s PageSpeed interpreted?

If you’re on WordPress and you’d like your PageSpeed & YSlow results explained to you with actionable things you can do, you can Get a WordPress Speed Audit.

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Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin Tutorial

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So you’re a blogger or content writer for a website/blog built in WordPress but you want help writing articles with search engine optimization (SEO). You do some research and you find WordPress SEO by Yoast is considered one of the best (and free). You install the Yoast plugin and then go to write a blog post (or page) and you are completely clueless on how to use it. Well, you’re in luck because this is a step-by-step tutorial for writing posts/pages with the Yoast plugin!  Read More

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How to Fight Comment Spam on WordPress

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If there’s one thing that I hate even more than email spam, it’s probably comment spam. I’ve tried a lot of plugins over a lot of sites, and here is what I’ve found to be very effective.
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How to Perform 301 Redirects on WordPress

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You’ve been told by countless SEO guides & Webmaster Tools that if you move a URL you need to use a 301 redirect. But they usually don’t tell you what exactly it is or how to do it. This article will cover the what and how for 301 redirects on WordPress.

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Backup WordPress with BackWPup Tutorial

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We all know that we need to backup our website, but the question is always how. This tutorial covers using an excellent and free backup tool, BackWPup. BackWPup also has a paid version if you need additional features (but most people will do just fine with the free version).

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How To Remove Comments & Trackbacks on WordPress

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With WordPress 4.3, WordPress has finally stopped allowing comments on new Pages. However, if you have an existing site every kind of data on your site probably allows both comments & trackbacks. That means pages, posts, media, and any custom data types you have. While it may sound like a good idea, it can be incredibly annoying if you have 50 pages, 100 posts, and 500 media files all getting trackbacks and/or comments on them.

So how do you turn off the ones you don’t want?
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How to Select & Register a Domain

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How to Register a Domain

Domain registration is quite quick and easy to do. The largest challenge is to decide whether you want a company to just register a domain or if you also want hosting. If you aren’t sure about hosting or what you will need, go ahead and register your domain. You can always transfer it later or get hosting elsewhere.

When Should You Register?

As soon as possible. There are very shady people out there who check through recent business registrations and go in and register those as domains. Their hope is that they can get you to pay them hundreds of dollars because they got there first.

Register your domain as soon as possible. Go ahead and register it before you even get your LLC papers or other business info.

Just Registration

Just registration is pretty straightforward. Head over to your favorite registrar and put in the domain name that you’d like. They will guide you through setting up an account and getting your domain registered. Some of the most popular registrars are GoDaddy, Enom and NameCheap.

Make sure when you register your site at a registrar you decide if you’ll want domain privacy. Domain privacy is a service offered by host companies which hides your personal info from your public registration info.

All domain privacy will hide your phone number, email address, and street address. However not all companies will hide your name, so make sure to check into that before you make a purchase if it’s important to you.

Another reason to go with just registration is if you will have your email hosted by Google Apps, and your website hosted by a WordPress Managed hosting service. Neither of these provide domain registration, so you need to have it separately.

Registration and Hosting

If you are ready to sign up for hosting, then you may want to register your domain at the same company as your hosting. Most hosting companies give you 1 free domain registration with hosting.

Click here for information on hosting companies for WordPress >

Selecting a Domain

It’s a simple fact that most people are used to typing in .com for businesses and .org for non profit organizations. These are habits that are well ingrained in most people (especially those over 30). Occasionally people can remember a .net, but most people don’t.

Additionally, if you are considering a less commonly used domain it is likely because the top levels (.com, .org and .net) are already taken. In this case you will be competing directly against the owners of those domains. SEO is hard enough without adding competition before you even get started.

You may also have difficulty getting listed if the search engines don’t think your content is substantially different from the others. Remember, search engines are in the business of finding people answers. If they think you are the same answer as existing sites with the same basic domain name, they will ignore you.

True Story: I know a company that took months to get listed in search engines (and a lot of social media campaigns & backlink building) because they picked .us extension. They picked .us because all the top levels were taken. Well guess what, they offered a very similar service to the ones with the top levels, so search engines ignored them.

In general hyphens (-) are used in URLs to separate words. This makes URLs easier to read. However, people are not used to typing in hyphens when they type in domain names. This means that if someone has www.mywidgets.com and you want to have www.my-widgets.com, you are going to end up sending a lot of your traffic to the folks who have www.mywidgets.com.

You should also be careful about capital I vs lowercase l. They look the same in many fonts, and most people just scan for a name. Domains should always be written out in all lowercase, especially avoiding using an uppercase I. Also watch out for double ll near i’s.

For example aililli would be nearly impossible to type in correctly the first time. If you do already have a name with i’s and l’s, when writing it out use a monospace font (aililli vs aililli) or font which very clearly distinguishes letters. Similar issues can happen with m’s and n’s or w’s and v’s.

If your company name has a frequently misspelled word in it, it might be useful to try and get a couple of the most common misspellings. Additionally, the longer the name, the more likely there is to be a typo. For example I came across an organization with the domain advocatesforadolescentmothers. It took two tries after looking up how to spell adolescent. Trying to email them would be a significant challenge.

Non-profit organizations will frequently get a .org extension. However, many of them also get the .com extension of their name since so many people are accustomed to typing in .com (and to prevent someone else from getting the .com). The organization may also get their country specific top level domain. For example in Canada people are used to typing the .ca extension.

Country Specific Domains

A country specific domain (like .ca for Canada) is fine, as long as your primary target audience is in Canada. Canadians are used to seeing .ca addresses. However, if some of your audience is in Puerto Rico then search engines may target that traffic away from .ca domain. For US folks, the .us extension is a new one and most people aren’t familiar with it.

Conclusion

If you aren’t sure of your hosting situation yet, go to one of the major domain registrars and register your domain with them. It’s better to get it now then find out it’s been taken a month from now. Also remember that you want the domain to be easy to spell, and using a top level domain to avoid unnecessary competition.

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How to Select a WordPress Hosting Company

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How to Select a WordPress Hosting Company
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You’re ready to get started with a self-hosted WordPress.org website and now need a hosting provider. Or, you have a provider, but are about ready to pull your hair out from frustration. Either way, this is a checklist of what to look for when selecting your new hosting company, and a few recommendations.
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Resetting a WordPress Password Using the Database & phpMyAdmin

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You’ve lost your WordPress password and can’t log into your site. And what’s worse, the reset password feature isn’t working (either because it can’t send mail or something else is wrong). This tutorial covers how to regain access to your site by direct database manipulation with phpMyAdmin.

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Custom Sidebars for WordPress Pages

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Do you have a WordPress theme that you really like, but it would be great if you could change the sidebars for certain pages? Most developers will tell you that first you go into functions.php and register the new sidebar, then create a custom page template. But, what if you don’t want to touch any PHP or even HTML for that matter? What if you just want a simple way to add custom sidebars when you want? If so, this tutorial is for you.
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