Opening Irony Statement
If you paste our website URL into Google Pagespeed Insights, you may see results of slightly less than 100% despite the screenshots on this page showing that we can actually achieve it. The reason for this is that, from an SEO point of view, we've found (by experimentation) that we can actually rank better with a lower score, as the techniques we used to achieve the 100% scores are detrimental to other techniques that we currently employ for our website (and our clients' sites).
If you're one of those SEO geek types that's obsessed with website loading speeds (as you should be), and you run a Joomla website, then this post is for you. At Smart Digital Solutions, we're no different; we know it's one of those things that Google pays attention to, especially since mobile devices make up a huge percentage of the total number of searches made. With mobile search percentages set to climb even higher as the years progress, now's the time to pay attention to the loading speed of your website if you haven't already done so. With this in mind, Pagespeed Insights is certainly a good place to start if you're looking to improve the score of your Joomla website.
Are Google 'Pagespeed Insights' results really that important for Joomla SEO?
If you expected a resoundingly, wholehearted "YES" from us, you'd be wrong; the best we can do is a half-hearted "YES", with a generous sprinkling of "NO" on top.
How do we know this? Well, mainly through trial and error. Whilst it certainly is important that your website loads fast, Google's Pagespeed Insights benchmark isn't the be-all and end-all that some people think it is. Sure, personal pride can come into it when you see your very first 100% result, but that doesn't mean that you're home and dry and will automatically leap from page three oblivion to the top of page one as a result, because you won't. You may only see minor improvements (if any) to your search engine ranking, even if your Pagespeed Insights results leap by quite a bit.
Content is King
Yes, we wheeled out that famous, well-worn Google Mantra that onsite stuff is more important than anything else. Well, that's because it is. Pay more attention to the overall content of your website and less attention to those extra few percents in Google Pagespeed Insight results.
Use Pingdom as well
If you care about how fast your website is loading for your local country or the rest of the world for that matter, Pingdom's website speed test is the place you should be looking. If your score is "A", then you're not doing too bad. You can also try using their servers in various global regions to see how each score compares. If your score sucks, you can analyze the results to see what is slowing your site down.
Do I need a CDN (Content Delivery Network)?
It can help, but not necessarily. If you're trying to get that magic 100% score for your Joomla website, this may actually hurt your chances, not help them. We won't go into the ins and outs here, but the way they work can add to the list of "Optimization Suggestions" Google will present you with if you don't hit 100 percent.
If your website is designed to attract business in the country you live in, find a hosting company that will put your website on a server that's in the same country as you, then you won't need a CDN.
Conversely, If you choose a decent hosting company such as Siteground (this is the company that we use and recommend), they offer a free CDN service provided by Cloudflare with all their packages, even the cheapest one. Their servers are fast and reliable and their customer support is second to none. They're also Joomla and Wordpress hosting experts and, if you use their free CDN, it can help speed up your website's loading time and get you closer to 100% in Pagespeed Insights.
It's not all about speed, baby
We have paying clients, so website page loading times matter to us. However, the time it takes for a web page to load is only one small factor and is just the tip of the iceberg of the various techniques we employ so, if you're obsessed with Google Pagespeed Insights results, you really should stop this unhealthy habit.
We've realised over the years that there are a whole host of other factors that make up the finished picture...but, this post isn't about that, it's about how to get that perfect 100% score for mobile and desktop results over at the home of Pagespeed Insights when you're running a Joomla website.
Joomla and Pagespeed
Smart Digital Solutions run a combination of Joomla, Wordpress and HTML websites for our clients. In general, HTML websites will always come out on top for speed because unlike Wordpress and Joomla, they don't have to constantly make calls to a database to grab the required information to load a web page. Having said that, we tend to find that Joomla fares slightly better than Wordpress on finished production sites on the same server.
The broad reason for this is that unlike Joomla, Wordpress is heavily reliant on plugins to make even the most basic of websites functional. For example, Wordpress doesn't come bundled with a contact form in the default install - Joomla does. In Wordpress circles, the phrase you're likely to hear most frequently is "you'll need a plugin for that".
In short, Wordpress plugins slow your website down. Whilst Joomla uses Extensions called 'Plugins', 'Modules' and 'Components', you tend to need less of them to accomplish the same thing, hence a faster website.
How do I get 100% scores for my Joomla website?
Switch on Joomla's Page Cache
One of the great things about Joomla over Wordpress is that once again, it has a few bits bundled with the core install to help you improve the speed of your website. There is a "Page Cache" plugin that you can simply enable with one click. Just go to Extension/Plugins from the top menu to find it. Enable it and click on it to make sure that "Use Browser Caching" is enabled, and you're done.
Enable GZIP Compression
Nowadays, most hosting companies have their servers set up so that you can take advantage of this feature without having to do anything else. If your hosting company doesn't offer it, it's time to change host. Go to System/Global Configuration and click on the Server tab. Simply enable it and click save.
Enable Joomla System Cache
Another out-of-the-box feature bundled with Joomla is the System Cache. Once again, you'll find this under the Global Configuration/System tab. You can try Conservative Caching or Progressive Caching. We have ours set to Progressive. We should also point out that having all these caching options enabled can make working on a production site tricky. If you're developing your Joomla website, it's easier to have caching switched off so that you can see your updates in real time and not the cached version.
All these caching options and Gzip compression will speed up your Joomla website and get you closer to achieving 100% over at Pagespeed Insights but here's the deal, it essentially boils down to several key factors:
- Your Joomla website hosting environment
- The Joomla template you're using
- What plugins, modules and Joomla components you have installed/enabled.
- Whether or not your images are optimized
- Whether you have sliders/other fancy stuff going on
Let's take a look at some of these in more detail:
Firstly, slow hosting equals bad results, so start off by finding a website hosting company that provides SSD (Solid State Drive) servers with good RAM (server memory). As a general rule of thumb, the more you pay, the faster speeds you'll get.
Now we take a look at your Joomla template. The ones that currently come bundled for free with Joomla (Beez and Protostar) are actually pretty lightweight and well coded. If you have a Joomla template that does all sorts of fancy stuff in the demo, but all you see is a spinning wheel or an hourglass whilst waiting for the next page to load, you need to ditch it. Nothing puts your website visitors off more than waiting an eon for the information to pop up on their screen; especially if they're on a mobile device with a weak signal.
Components, modules & plugins
Thirdly, keep your Joomla plugins, modules and components to a minimum. Unpublish and uninstall any old third-party ones you no longer need or use (which is also sensible from a security standpoint too). Furthermore, check which native Joomla modules and plugins are not needed and at the very least, unpublish those too if they don't affect the functionality of your Joomla website.
Fourth on our list is images. Some people upload gigantic-sized photos from their cameras or mobile phone onto their website. This is bad and will lower your Pagespeed Insights score. If Google's Pagespeed results are telling you to resize and optimize your images, you'll have no choice but to do it if you want that perfect 100 percent score. If you don't have the necessary software to do it, there are free websites that can help you optimize your .jpg and .png images such as TinyJPG.
JPG vs PNG Images - Which is best?
Whilst a PNG image file tends to be larger than the same image rendered as JPG, it doesn't really matter if it's optimized well; the link above to TinyJPG can optimize both. If you're fanatical about saving disk space, use JPGs instead of PNGs. Our website uses a mixture of both.
Slideshows & fancy popups etc.
Last on our hit list is all that flashy stuff that you've got going on. Premium Joomla template makers will often try and lure you into parting with your cash by showing you all kinds of fancy and flashy stuff when you view their demos. This is fine, but if they're not coded well, they can seriously hurt the speed of your Joomla website when you install and publish your Premium Joomla template. Much of this fancy stuff was understandably a fad a few years ago and allowed coders to showcase their talents. Nowadays, the novelty has worn off for the general public and they're more interested in getting the information that they're looking for and having it delivered to their screens clearly and quickly.
What else can I do to get 100% in Pagespeed Insights for desktop and mobile?
If you're plagued with:
warnings from Google and are tearing your hair out in desperation, there are third-party plugins that can help. These are often the last few sticking points to stop you achieving your 100% Pagespeed Insights score. We suggest trying JCH Optimize to assist in this area; there are both free and paid versions of this. This Joomla plugin can help with the messages above and if you configure it correctly, it will also write to your .htaccess file assuming that you're using it. This will help with the caching directives for the images/media on your website.
Joomla comes with a default htaccess.txt file which you should rename to (dot) .htaccess for this to work. You should also have URL Rewriting enabled in your Global Configuration.
A final word of caution
How we can help
We've been working with Joomla for more than a decade so if your Joomla website is languishing in the ranking doldrums, get in touch with us to discuss how we can help put the wind back in your sails (and sales!).