Does Google really penalise slow websites…using the Google Page Speed Test Tool?


So we have carried out some research to find the answer…

This theme is becoming a common topic and for good reason –  this issue crops up every week and is a hot potato that some wordpress developers don’t want to handle.

We were approached by our existing client to redesign their website.  After a lengthy discussion and explaining to my client what the difference between a custom build wordpress site and using an off the shelf wordpress theme, how  it effects speed, he asked us to do some investigation to enable him to make an informed decision.   Obviously a custom built wordpress site is more costly then a pre-built off the shelf wordpress theme, but the benefits are self evident as we will see here – more often than not you really do get what you pay for.   Read on for the results…

We conducted a simple comparison test for a number of sites by comparing the Google Page Speed Test Tool score.

For those that are not familiar with the Google Page Speed Test Tool, here’s what the UI results pane looks like


My clients site was scoring  75/100, which is pretty good,  but this was a html website (no database or CMS to slow it down like wordpress).. By the way, he went for the custom built solution after showing him this research.

It’s no coincidence that all the sites scoring high on the speed test are the highest ranked sites on Google, and are ranked position 6 or higher.   A high percentage of the  sites  are mostly scoring low, but they obviously don’t rely on organic SEO for their traffic,  and they may or may not use adwords. If they are using adwords, they would also not be performing well in terms of quality score and landing page experience .(eg. they will be paying higher cost per click on average for their keywords – that there’s no doubt.)

For a site to benefit from high keyword rankings, and to compete on the first page of Google,  you really need a score of 85/100 ,and to beat all other competitor sites with scores of 90/100.

Incidentally most sites score in the region of 55-65 on average.


The sites below show the Google insights speed test for each web site and the indicative score.

Competitor websites scoring well on the  Google Page Speed Test Tool are also high performing for organic SEO and keyword positions  85/100  (first page google for ‘cleaning services london’)   73/100     (first page google for ‘cleaning services london’)   79/100   (first page google for ‘cleaning services london’)    75/100   (first page google for ‘cleaning services london’)           85/100   (first page google for ‘cleaning services london’)              90/100   (first page google for ‘cleaning services london’)      81/100    (first page google for ‘cleaning services london’)


Competitor websites scoring low on the  Google Page Speed Test Tool are also low performing for organic SEO and keyword positions  32/100   (page 3  google position for ‘cleaning services london’)


Competitor websites scoring low on the  Google Page Speed Test Tool    38/100    14/100  30/100   44/100   74/100   42/100


What the other sites are built on is not relevant, if you are going to use wordpress, and score highly,  it needs to be score higher than theirs, to get the maximum SEO benefit.   The best option is to build a custom wordpress site.

One of the most difficult and demanding issues to correct is  ‘Eliminate render-blocking resources above the fold’.  Eliminating render-blocking is one of the most complicated parts of improving page load speed because it requires more technical knowledge. This involves re-engineering the JavaScript and CSS code so that the upper part of the page renders first,  and isn’t dependant on loading unnecessary code.  If you are using WordPress, the Autopmize plugin can help you.  Having said that I have sometimes experienced an overall resultant lower score using this plugin, as it can also cause a speed decrease (lowering the speed score), because of resource overhead,  – which cancels out the Autoopmize resolution of issues like minify CSS, html.