This year Google merged its web performance tool Page Speed Insights with Google Lighthouse. The result, according to SEO analysts, is Page Speed and then some.
The new overarching web management tool bolsters a web developer’s ability to create and manage structure, improve page speed and optimise SEO content.
Want to know how can you make Lighthouse work for your business? Read on to find out how to make the most of the new concept, and learn how to use Lighthouse to boost your site’s likeability and performance.
What is Google Lighthouse?
Lighthouse is free and easy to use. It’s a user-friendly tool designed for developers who wish to improve the quality of a web page, and it can be applied to any page (public or authenticated) in a heartbeat.
We’ll talk more about how to use Lighthouse in a moment (it is VERY easy), but one of its most appealing — and arguably the most useful — features is the audit. Lighthouse red-flags minute errors of a site, enabling a developer to instantly correct and republish web pages.
Running a Lighthouse audit allows you to see within seconds the efficiency of a site in five distinct areas:
- Progressive web app
- Best practices
You’ll soon see why Google chose to augment the talents of Page Speed Insights.
Why change Page Speed Insights?
Google’s Page Speed change took place to provide consistency within its pre-existing Webmaster infrastructure. Up until then, most of Google’s webmaster tools used different analysis engines. As a result, recommendations for change differed according to which tool was being implemented by a developer.
The following explanation of the change was posted on the Google Webmaster Blog:
“At Google, we know that speed matters and we provide a variety of tools to help everyone understand the performance of a page or site. Historically, these tools have used different analysis engines.
“Unfortunately, this caused some confusion because the recommendations from each tool were different. Today, we’re happy to announce that Page Speed Insights (PSI) now uses Lighthouse as its analysis engine.”
Lighthouse Audit: The Big Three
Want to know how your site performs on a smart phone? Or how healthy your SEO content is? How about how fast your site responds to a mobile user’s input on a different network?
Lighthouse’s audit includes information and recommendations on all three (and more).
Checks mobile compatibility
These days half of all website interactions take place via mobile technology, and more than half of us use mobiles to shop on the go. Clearly, your mobile site needs to be in tiptop condition and performing at lightning speed.
How do you find out? Use Lighthouse.
Unlike Page Speed Insights, Lighthouse’s audit defaults to a search of the mobile version of your site. Run the audit to receive information about the attractiveness of the site, visitor bounce rates, loading times and more.
Checks SEO robustness
The Lighthouse audit includes a measure of your site’s SEO configuration. Lighthouse checks for attributes including a strong title element, enticing meta-descriptions, descriptive text and legibility (readability).
But remember, speed isn’t everything.
If your Lighthouse audit flags up a contravention of Google’s standards you’ll be red-flagged, which may reduce your search ranking no matter how fast your site loads. Be especially vigilant of red flags for Content Best Practices and Crawling and Indexing
Checks page speed
Page speed matters. Users want a page to be accessible instantly, without jerkiness or time wasted on loads. How fast a page loads determines the level of customer experience. If a visitor can’t find a specific piece of information within a certain time, they won’t make the transition from ‘visitor’ to ‘customer’.
Google says: ‘If it takes more than 1 second for your site to become interactive users will lose interest’, and ‘53% of users will abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load!’
A slow-loading site can in the end affect your indexation. Search engines have a finite crawl budget when it comes to crawling sites. A site that lumbers into action will tend to be overlooked by a crawl in favour of something zippier.
If Google decides that your website’s performance is substandard (for whatever reason) your ranking will suffer.
How can Lighthouse help my business?
There are at least three ways a business can use Lighthouse to its advantage:
1. To test and enhance your site
Conduct a Lighthouse audit and work your way through the feedback of performance metrics and opportunities; take the time to improve each point one by one. Re-run the audit to then see whether your adjustments have got rid of some of the red flags. You can do this for the mobile and desktop versions of your site.
2. To make updates to your website manually
Deploy a new code to a test server then run a Lighthouse audit to perfect your performance metrics and opportunities. Check the audit scores and re-evaluate if necessary. When you are satisfied with the result send the new code to your production server.
3. To ensure that any changes to a site are only going to make things better
An ecommerce business is able to automate Lighthouse audits. Doing so can integrate the audit to enable any changes a developer makes to be judged fit (or not) to be published. Lighthouse automatically tests the impact of new source code changes on overall performance.
How to use lighthouse?
Let’s look at each of the five markers that Lighthouse uses to score its audit. Understanding how to optimise each of these metrics will provide you with the means to tactically control website performance, and ensure your site is awarded a high ranking by search engines.
To open the developer interface, you have to be using Google Chrome as your browser. Follow the next steps to access Lighthouse’s auditing capability:
- Hit ‘F12’, or right click a webpage and select ‘Inspect’. Doing so should open the Developer Tools interface on one portion of the screen.
- Depending on the size of your screen and the position the Developer Tools interface docks, you will see a menu with headings: ‘Elements’, ‘Console’, ‘Sources’, ‘Network’, ‘Performance’ and to the right of the last menu are two angle brackets. Click these and another menu drops down.
- The new menus are: ‘Memory’, ‘Application’, ‘Security’ and ‘Audits’.
- Select ‘Audits’, check the elements of the audit that you are interested in reviewing and click the blue ‘Run audits’ button.
According to your selection of elements, you will receive a report outlining the scores out of 100 for each.
Let’s look at what these mean in more detail:
The performance metrics are concerned with load speed and meaningfulness of content. Lighthouse measures the loading speed of all content in a manner that simulates a user’s own physical experience. The audit begins at the first visible web page and then determines load speeds from how well the web page performs as the user scrolls downward.
Progressive web app element
This part of Lighthouse measures your website’s reliability, speed and engagement. It determines how well your site performs on mobile devices and adapts to different device displays and network connectivity; for instance, a web page that alters its size from a smart phone to a tablet will receive a higher score.
These checks highlight what changes a developer can make to improve the accessibility of a web app. Only partial accessibility can be audited using Lighthouse leaving a developer to do some groundwork to identify and tackle other problems relating to accessibility.
Your accessibility score is for things like legibility: in other words, how easy a web page is to read.
Lighthouse is keen to ensure that web content is accessible to every user. Well-structured layouts, appealing and eye-catching links and visible colours are just some of the things Google looks out for on its crawls.
Best practices element
The Best Practices element of the audit measures the safety and vulnerability of your site’s URLs. A red flag may be raised for one or more pages that are served over HTTP/1.1; you may see a recommendation to switch to HTTP/2.
According to Google, HTTP/2 can, ‘serve your page’s resources faster, and with less data moving over the wire. Under URLs, Lighthouse lists every resource that was not served over HTTP/2. To pass this audit, serve each of those resources over HTTP/2.’
These checks ensure that your page is optimised for search engine results ranking. In addition, Lighthouse checks that your page is mobile friendly and that structured data is valid.
Google is hot about its SEO practices. It frowns on users being deceived by underhand tactics, but conversely rewards those websites which are, ‘unique, valuable, or engaging’.
Here are some above-board ways to improve your SEO ranking, according to Google:
- A user should be able to reach all pages via a link from another ‘findable’ page. The referring link should include either relevant text or an alt attribute.
- A sitemap not only points Google to the most important pages of your site but in readable form helps a visitor to navigate their way from page to page.
- Don’t overdo the number of links set within the pages of your website.
- Learn how to include an ‘If-Modified-Since HTTP header’ in your web server. By including this element Google will be told of any changes to the site since its last visit. After all, if you have bolstered your sites performance you will want Google to know about it!
- Avoid links to cross-origin destinations. If you must keep an unsafe link, adding `rel=”noopener”` or `rel=”noreferrer”` to decrease your site’s vulnerability.
- Utilise robots.text file to prevent Google from pointless crawls. Google’s crawl budget will only go so far.
Lighthouse performs many of the same tasks as Page Speed Insights but now with additional elements valuable to webmasters.
Lighthouse’s audit scoring allows developers to spot flaws and errors in the background of a web page in just a few moments. For a developer to receive feedback on changes in real-time allows them to maintain a site that is secure, fast and (above all) engaging and useful.
Find out more about the lighthouse merger here on the Google Webmaster’s Blog.