Thoughts on Google PageSpeed Insights (PSI) and Joomla Websites

Increasingly, we are getting requests from clients asking us to increase the Google PageSpeed Insights (PSI) score of their Joomla sites. Some of them even ask us to get them a score of a 100, which can only be possible if the Joomla website is an extremely basic one.

We usually respond that any score of about 80 (or even 75) is a good score, and that while a very high PSI score may provide a very slight boost to the SEO rankings of the site, it is usually not worth it, because, at best, that score will only be temporary, and, at worst, the website’s will become a complete mess. Let us explain…

First, Google PageSpeed Insights has some really unrealistic expectations when it comes to the page response time. We have seen the tool complaining about a 240 millisecond response time as too slow and asking us to “reduce it”. In our opinion and in the opinion of many, such a response time is excellent. So, administrators with slow Joomla sites (according to PSI) resort to using all kinds of caching tools (including Joomla’s own System – Cache plugin, possibly the most horrible caching plugin ever) to provide a quick remedy to the problem. This typically results in weird issues, such as layout issues, broken functionality, etc…

Second, PSI insists on having only the extremely necessary CSS and JS code loaded “above-the-fold”. “Above-the-fold” means being loaded in the head tag (before the page is rendered), and this requirement is there to ensure that the HTML content loads even if there are problems loading the CSS/JS files. This concern is valid for 2 reasons: 1) if the dependencies (the CSS and JS files) are loaded externally and there are connection problems with the remote site(s), and 2) if the SYN_FLOOD firewall value is set to a very small value, preventing the quick loading of assets. Joomla administrators typically install system plugins that will add defer or async to various assets being loaded – the problem is, however, that in many cases, these extensions result in a hard-to-fix mess.

Third, PSI expects the site administrator to have control over external websites. For example, if the website has AdSense ads on it, then PSI insists that the website must “leverage browser caching” on the AdSense assets (images, CSS, JS), which is not possible. This makes the lives of Joomla administrators extremely hard, especially those having many JavaScript tracking snippets and widgets on their Joomla sites. These administrators are typically left with the not-so-pleasant task of giving the marketing department (or the site owner) a choice: Higher PSI score or JS tracking snippets/widgets, but not both.

Fourth, even if a Joomla website is lucky enough to reach a high PageSpeed Insights score, then that score will gradually decrease with time, this is because almost every install and every update of an extension will negatively affect the score, and because new images that will be uploaded (and possibly processed by an extension, such as the images that are uploaded in K2) will most likely be unoptimized.

Fifth, it is really absurd to meet the technical standards that Google itself is not meeting in most of its products. Take a look at YouTube’s score for example, do you see a 100? How about Gmail’s score? How about that of Alphabet, Google’s parent company? None of these have perfect score, and one of them (Gmail) has a really, really low one.

So, should people ignore Google PageSpeed Insights?

Not at all – it does promote some best practices that are excellent to implement. However, it is important not to get obsessed with having a high score. A moderate to good score of 75-80 is more than enough.

PSI is a good tool, but it is ideal and far from realistic. With its idealism, Google’s PSI is inadvertently promoting some bad practices on the Internet, and is ironically standing against the #1 recommendation that Google has for the webmasters: make websites for humans, and not for (ro)bots. Because of PSI’s requirements, some webmasters are now doing the opposite.

Now, if you, our dear reader, are having problems raising the Google PageSpeed Insights score of your Joomla website to an acceptable level, then all you need to do is to contact us. We are always there for you, our work is professional, our attitude is right, and our prices are affordable.

No comments yet.

Leave a comment