I put my portfolio website through the google speed test and it got a 86. What does this exactly mean? 86 out of 100 strikes me as a good score, what does this mean for the chances of a website with such a score ranking?

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    Page speed is only one of hundreds of ranking factors in Google. There is far more to determining whether a page will rank than knowing its page speed score. Aug 17 '21 at 12:30

One thing that others have not mentioned yet is competitor speed metrics. If you score an 86/100 and you have a competitor site that is very similar to yours (i.e. similar backlink profile and on-page signals) and they are scoring 96/100, then they probably have a good chance of ranking higher.

Now, that is a made up hypothetical situation because there are so many signals that it is unlikely for two sites to be exactly the same in every single way except speed.

I would take the scores themselves with a grain of salt. There may not be much discernible difference to a user between 86 and 91, for example. But there may be between 86 and 96.

Be tool agnostic and try other speed testing tools besides that one. Keep in mind that none of these tools are perfect.

In order to really get a sense of the user's experience at page load they they would need to replicate different devices, browsers, network conditions, user locations (e.g. last mile latency), and potentially various application states.

So there is no one number that can describe your site speed. We have to interpret the scores within context and treat them as a means to informing our work and not an end in themselves.

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    I cannot help but to be a little bit chuffed with the results though. As a person who is trying to make web development my career I will take any acknowledgement of good work from a tech giant atm to be quite frank.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 20 '21 at 18:05

If the 86/100 is the mobile score, the desktop score is likely ~95-100.

I have many sites that score like this, and have no problems ranking content on either desktop or mobile.

This will not hinder pages on your site from ranking.

However, sinces Google's recent Page Experience Update, it does mean that you may lose a tie breaker where the decision is between your site and another for a certain position in search results on mobile

Page Experience and Search

Q: What is the page experience update and how important is it compared to other ranking signals?

A: The page experience update introduces a new signal that our search algorithms will use alongside hundreds of other signals to determine the best content to show in response to a query. Our systems will continue to prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn't override having great, relevant content.

This is similar to changes we’ve had in the past, such as our mobile-friendly update or our speed update. As with those signals, page experience will be more important in “tie-breaker” types of situations. If there are multiple pages of similar quality and content, those with better page experience might perform better than those without.

In short, publishers shouldn’t worry that when we begin using page experience, that they may suffer some immediate significant drop, if they’re still working on making improvements. But publishers should be focused on making those improvements a relative priority over time. This is because as more and more sites continue to improve their page experience, it will be the norm that publishers will want to match.

Full Q&A

Lab vs. Field Data (Additional Thought)

  • PageSpeed Insights gives us "Lab Data". To gauge true speed, Google looks at actual timings for users aka "Field Data". Depending on how much traffic you get, Google will report to you these timings in Google Search Console
  • PageSpeed Insights/Lighthouse also use a "Fast 3G" connection and an emulated Moto G4 (last I checked). This might not be realistic for many of your users depending on the Demographics/Geography of your audience.

A good score in Google PageSpeed is good for the following reasons:

  1. Reduce the bounce rate.
  2. Increase the returning visitors.
  3. Better SEO positions on desktop and mobile.

By the contrary, a slow site means:

  1. Visitors don't wait the page load and close before reading.
  2. Visitors will not return to your site for this bad experiencie.
  3. Bad SEO positions on desktop and mobile.

Things you can do to improve the score:

  1. Reduce the http-requests: mixing CSS files, JS files, using SVG icons or font icons instead of a lot of images.
  2. Optimize images.
  3. Reduce the TTFB (Time to first byte).
  4. Improve the FCP (First content paintful), avoid blocking elements during the page load.
  5. Reduce the CLF (Cumulative layout shift), for example, adding the heigh attribute on images.
  6. Compress the CSS files.
  7. Compress the JS files.
  8. Compress the HTML files.
  9. Use cache via .htaccess file.
  10. Use gzip compression.
  11. Avoid too many redirections.
  12. Don't use too many elements on a document.
  • 2
    This doesn't answer the question. Is a score of 86/100 a good enough score to prevent ranking problems? Aug 19 '21 at 12:52
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    As you said, it's just a ranking factor between a lot of ranking factors. About your question: 86/100 is better than, let's say, 50/100; and it's worse than 100/100. Nobody knows the importance that Google is giving to this score and their multiple values. The only thing is known it's a ranking factor with more priority than some months ago.
    – Unix
    Aug 19 '21 at 13:15
  • 1
    I think context is required for many of the things you are addressing. Your answer is broadly about the pagespeed insights recommendations not OP's situation. Aug 20 '21 at 20:25

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