Complete Guide To GTMetrix For Faster Load Times
Businesses have now come to fully realize the importance of having an online presence, particularly its implications on profitability, growth and the ultimate achievement of organizational and business goals.
That is why they are investing sizable amounts of their resources on setting up and maintaining their websites. They pay attention to a lot of things, particularly their content and SEO, even hiring outside help to move them along. As a result, they have websites with very good content and their rankings on search engines are high.
But there is one aspect that most of them often overlook: their website speed.
In this article, you will learn 1) why having a fast website is super important, 2) what is GTmetrix, 3) what packages does GTmetrix offer, and 4) how to use GTmetrix in order to speed up your website.
THE NEED FOR SPEED
Website speed and loading times of websites have a great impact on the amount of traffic that a website gets. It’s not always about the content. How many times have you clicked on a link to a website, and ended up leaving a short while later because it seemed to take forever for the website to load? Probably more than a few times.
The speed of a website is one of the things that improve a user’s overall experience. It leaves a good first impression for first-time visitors and will no doubt encourage them to return. This is especially crucial for e-commerce sites; potential buyers may choose not to purchase anything from a website for the simple reason that it takes too long for them to view the merchandise or goods being sold.
In one recent survey, it was revealed that there is a 4-second window within which a website visitor decides whether they should move on or not, based solely on the speed of the website. If, after 4 seconds, the website has not loaded, they are most likely to close it, or move on to another website.
This is certainly not a good thing, especially when users are making use of a smartphone or any mobile device. A chain reaction would reflect in the website’s ranking in search engines. Google, for example, would rank slow sites low, because its “mobile-first” approach requires that a website should be able to load within one second. It is definitely in keeping with Google’s policy of using page speed to determine rankings in search engines.
But all hope is not lost. Businesses can measure their website speed and loading times and troubleshoot, when necessary, using a variety of tools made available to them. One of the most commonly used and popular tools is GTMetrix.
WHAT IS GTMETRIX?
GTMetrix is basically a tool that is used to determine the performance of websites. It was developed by GT.net, a hosting provider with data centers around the world, for its managed hosting customers.
GT.net built GTMetrix to use Yahoo! YSlow and Google PageSpeed in evaluating and reposting on the various factors that affect the speed of a website. PageSpeed is an open-source module developed by Google purposely to identify the faults, if any, in the compliance of a website to the guidelines of Google, as laid out in its Web Performance Best Practices. YSlow, on the other hand, is Yahoo!’s own PageSpeed tool, which will also check compliance of Yahoo!’s rules for best practices and exceptional performance.
It is a free tool, so those who are trying it out for the first time can use the Basic account. However, there are also four GTMetrix PRO packages for clients and developers who want to get more out of the tool: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Custom, with different pricing and features.
Key Features of GTMetrix
Let us take a look at the suite of features that you can get out of GTMetrix.
1. Comprehensive Report Page
GTMetrix provides a summary of your website’s performance, particularly on the following:
- Page Load Speed. GTMetrix makes use of the rulesets of Google PageSpeed and Yahoo! YSlow to analyze the loading speed of your page.
- Total Page Size
- Total Number of Requests
- Page Performance. GTMetrix compares the performance of your page with that of the average of all the other websites that it has analyzed.
2. Page Performance Tracking
You can keep watch over the performance of your website in real-time using GTMetrix.
- Scheduled monitoring. Page monitoring is facilitated and can be done on your preferred schedule. You can run tests on a daily basis or, if you prefer, you can do it periodically, such as weekly and monthly. This way, you can spot problems when they arise, and be able to anticipate other issues and act on them before they even occur.
- Alerts and notifications. Never miss important activities on your page performance, since you can set alerts so you will be notified on your PageSpeed and YSlow scores, Total Page Size, Page Load Time, and Total Number of Requests.
- Performance history. If you want to look up your site’s performance during a specific period, you do not have to wade through a long list of activities on your history tab. GTMetrix has a facility that allows you to set a date range so you will only be able to see the data that you require.
- Interactive graphs. GTMetrix lets website owners and developers get a visual representation of website performance using three types of graphs:
- Page Load Time, or the length of time it takes for a page of a website to fully load
- Page Size & Request Counts, which has something to do with the bytes of the content of the page
- PageSpeed and YSlow Scores
These graphs become even more helpful, since users can annotate the areas of interest on the graphs.
3. Real-World Mobile Performance Data Analysis
With the increasing usage of mobile devices for Internet browsing activity and transactions, it is only right to make sure your website is optimized for mobile view. GTMetrix lets you know whether your page performs just as well on a mobile device. It uses the URL of your website to pass through an actual Android device, and you get actual performance data on the page load of your website on mobile devices.
This analysis will provide information that will be used when you optimize your website for mobile users. By improving the page loading time of your page on mobile devices, you will be increasing the likelihood of mobile users repeatedly viewing your site.
4. Video playback feature
Getting data presented in tables and graphs is one thing; seeing it happen in a video is another. Somehow, the latter is more persuasive and makes the performance monitoring more real.
GTMetrix lets you view videos that show playbacks of your page loads. This will give you a clearer idea of how your page is performing in terms of speed. By doing so, you will be able to identify the exact areas where bottlenecks take place, or where the loading stops altogether.
While it is true that other speed-testing tools have video features, GTMetrix offers more functionality.
- Instead of going through all the page loads to find what you are looking for, you can opt to just identify major milestones on your page load history and jump to them directly. This easily saves time and effort.
- Playback can be slowed down to give you a better picture of how your page loads. At normal speed, it is possible that you might miss something crucial. But you can slow down the playback speed – even up to 4x slower! – to be able to evaluate it better.
- The Filmstrip view allows you to watch a frame-by-frame playback of the entire real-time loading process. Just like slowing it down, this feature also gives you better chances of identifying problem areas.
- The playback feature also works to provide you a picture on how it performs on a mobile device, providing you a video capture of how your page loads on mobile.
5. Multi-region testing
GTMetrix has 13 servers all over the world, situated in 7 regions. To date, the regions where GTMetrix have these servers are:
- Vancouver, Canada (where GT.net is based)
- Dallas, USA
- London, United Kingdom
- Sydney, Australia
- Sao Paulo, Brazil
- Mumbai, India
- Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Users do not have to worry about location and logistics becoming a limitation on how GTMetrix works in testing their sites. Tracking multiple URLS can be easily done from a single location.
6. Data Archiving
Users may keep report data they have saved for as long as they want, or need to. It is also easier to keep track of all the pages that are being monitored, because GTMetrix also has a weekly e-mail digest feature, which provides users with an overview of all important and major data in their inbox.
For users who opt to invest more and upgrade to a GTMetrix PRO account, they can also save a video of the page load that triggered any monitored alert.
7. Variability analysis
Page performance is affected by several factors, including the connection speeds of users, the desktop browsers being used, and the effect of ads. GTMetrix takes all these into consideration.
There are different types of browsers most commonly used by site viewers: Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. GTMetrix analyzes how your website loads on both browsers, showing you a clear comparison to see where your site loads faster and performs better.
Connection throttling, in consideration of different connection speeds. GTMetrix loads your page on these different speeds, from Dial-Up to Cable and Broadband, in its simulations. This will enable you to optimize your page in such a way that it can be easily and quickly viewed by users, regardless of their connection speed.
8. Authentication and security features
If your page requires users to log in, GTMetrix inputs cookie session data in order to scan it and assess its performance. It also does the same thing to pages that are using HTTP authentication.
GTMetrix also has a feature for a blacklist or a whitelist. The blacklist is for those resources that you want blocked from loading on your page (causing the page load time to be longer), while the whitelist is for the resources that are allowed to be loaded. Being able to clearly define and distinguish the resources through these lists will facilitate the continuous monitoring of your page performance.
As mentioned earlier, using GTMetrix is free, unless you want to upgrade to more functionalities and features.When you want more, you have the option of getting GTMetrix PRO. Take a look at the following available GTMetrix plans so you can see what is most suitable for your needs.
This is the free account, which allows monitoring of up to three URLs and maintaining an archive with a maximum of 20 URLs. It also allows 20 daily API credits, and lets users find reports quickly using custom filters.
At a monthly fee of $14.95, you can get more out of the Basic features. Instead of three URLs, you can monitor up to 10 URLs and maintain an archive of up to 100 URLs. The daily API credit is 100, which is certainly higher than the 20 daily API available in the Basic account. As for the report filters, you can create as many custom filters as you want.
These Add-ons are the features that are available only with the BRONZE, SILVER, GOLD, AND CUSTOM accounts:
- Priority access is given, so you do not have to wait long for your analysis to be performed.
- GTMetrix PRO users have the benefit of being able to monitor their URLs on an hourly basis.
- Monitoring of URLs can be done from anywhere in the world, even from remote locations.
- Monitored alerts are further made more effective, since they can be captured on video, with the video capture serving as documentation of what triggered the alert.
The Silver account charges a monthly fee of $49.95, and has more offerings. Monitoring is allowed for a maximum of 20 URLs, and up to 200 site reports can be maintained in an archive. There are certainly more API credits, because Silver allows 500 daily credits. Custom filters are also unlimited. It also has the same Add-on features as enumerated under the BRONZE account.
The Gold account costs more, at a hefty sum of $149.95 monthly. But there are certainly more features. You can create as many custom filters as you want, and the daily API credits can go up to 1500. You can also track more URLs, reaching up to 50 URLs. The archive of your site’s reports can also hold up to 500.
Aside from the Add-on features that Bronze and Silver accounts have, the Gold account also lets users generate white-labeled PDF reports, customized with their own company or business logo and brand name.
This is probably the most flexible option. The users get to pretty much decide on the features that they want: the number of URLs to monitor and reports to maintain in its archive; the number of API credits for their daily applications, and the number of report filters they can customize for their own use. Of course, it goes without saying that they will also enjoy all the Add-on features available to a Gold account user.
The fee that will be paid for a custom GTMetrix PRO account will depend on the features that the users will choose to incorporate into their account.
HOW TO USE GTMETRIX
GT.net has certainly made it very easy for users to make the most of GTMetrix.
Anyone can use GTMetrix to analyze their website performance. All they have to do is go to the website for GTMetrix, input their URL into the box marked “Analyze Performance of:”, then click “GO!”
But it is highly recommended to create an account in order to avail of the useful features of the Basic account. Signing up for an account is free.
- “Sign Up” to create an account.
- Enter your URL into the box, and click on GO!
- You will receive a Report Card on your site’s performance. The Performance Report will show:
- Your Page Speed Grade, YSlow Grade, Page Load Time, Total Page Size, and Total Number of Requests.
- A timeline, which shows how long it took each piece or page of your site to load.
- A historical comparison to prior speed tests that you have performed on the site.
- A list of possible solutions to slow generation time issues.
- Recommendations and optimization tips, such as when GTMetrix automatically detects that you are running on a WordPress site.
It’s pretty easy and simple! Now it is up to you what to do with the information that you obtained from using GTMetrix in order to improve your site’s overall performance. You can work on improving on the problem areas and repeat the test all over again, until such time that you are fully satisfied with the grade or the scores you are getting on your performance reports. It is highly recommended to keep a record of all the reports so you can track your progress.
When testing your site using GTMetrix, take note of the following tips:
- Do not test your homepage only. Your website has different pages aside from the homepage; test each of those pages.
- Do not settle on testing a page only once; test them twice, thrice, and several times over.
- Test the pages from multiple locations.
COMPLAINTS AGAINST GTMETRIX
Despite the fact that GTMetrix ranks high among the top website speed-testing tools and analyzers, there are still some complaints against it.
- GTMetrix does not offer variable testing. According to some developers, this would have significantly reduced the total testing time.
- GTMetrix does not take the host in consideration. GTMetrix considers variable connection speeds as well as the different browsers used, but it would also have been better if it also takes into account the differences in hosts. After all, there are hosts that are much better than others, and the quality of the hosts also have an impact on the speeds of users.
These few complaints, however, do not negate the fact that GTMetrix is a very effective tool that provides in-depth analysis on page performance. No wonder it is always present in various lists of top website speed-testing tools and analyzers today.
In San Francisco, we talked with venture capitalist from Partech Ventures, Nicolas El Baze, …