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How to Use GTmetrix Speed Test Tool

Can using a tool like GTmetrix help to improve your website's performance?
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1. Introduction

In order to improve your WordPress website’s performance, you need to understand how it currently performs. GTmetrix is a tool that analyzes your website in order to show you how it performs and where you can make improvements.

To date, GTmetrix has analyzed over 579 million pages. It’s very easy to use; simply enter in your website’s URL and you’ll get to see your current website performance, including scores and recommendations.

Now, that’s all well and good, and there are plenty of tools out there that can do similar things, but what’s the use in them if you don’t understand the results?

When GTmetrix spits back your performance results and recommendations, you may feel a little overwhelmed. Whilst the information they produce is great, it’s hard to know where to begin.

This article is designed to give you an overview of GTmetrix speed test tool, and help you understand how to use it effectively in order to increase your websites performance.

2. How to run a GTmetrix test for your website

To begin analyzing your website, you’ll need to head to the GTmetrix website. Here you can enter your website’s URL and click Test your site to begin.

However, I would recommend signing up for a free GTmetrix account as it has many benefits. If you don’t sign up, your speed test will use the following default options:

  • Test speed from Vancouver, Canada
  • Uses Google Chrome (desktop)
  • Unthrottled connection
Once you have a free account, you can change these options to suit your needs. For example, if your website visitors are mainly in the U.S., you’ll want to test your website from that location.
 

You could also run tests on mobile devices, different connection speeds like 3G, and so on.

Once you’ve clicked Analyze from your account, GTmetrix will provide a results page of your website. This tells you:

  • When the report was generated
  • Where the test location was
  • Which conditions were used
  • Performance and Page details
There are also additional tabs, including PageSpeed, YSlow, Waterfall, Timings, Video, and history. I’ll discuss these tabs with you, in detail, next.

3. PageSpeed

Once your website has been analyzed, the PageSpeed tab is highlighted by default. It uses Google PageSpeed’s algorithm to calculate a score out of 100 on various metrics. GTmetrix calculates an overall score out of 100 to give you your PageSpeed score.

PageSpeed can be effected by multiple factors, including image optimisation, browser caching, server speed, excessive code, etc. 

If you click on the drop down arrow next to the recommendation, e.g. Serve scaled images, you will see what the recommendation is in more detail, what items are causing issues, and how to fix them.

If you’re not sure what anything means, you can check the Type in the right-hand column, or click on What’s this mean? next to the recommendation.

4. YSlow

Very similar to PageSpeed, YSlow analyzes your website and uses a set of rules to determine a score. There are 19 rules that GTmetrix uses to calculate your YSlow score, each with their own recommendation in order to speed your website up.

Some of the most common YSlow recommendations include:

  • Minify CSS and JavaScript: By minifying your CSS and JavaScript code, you can remove unnecessary code without changing how it functions. Very similar to optimizing images, you are making things smaller, without there being a visual effect. I highly recommend downloading Autoptimize for WordPress for this purpose.
  • Use a CDN: A Content Delivery Network (CDN) will help speed up your website by delivering your site’s static content from multiple servers around the world. This especially helps your website visitors who are further afield in comparison to your web host’s server. Web hosts like BlueHost often include CloudFlare CDN for free.
  • Avoid 404 errors: You’ve probably come across a 404 error on a website in your time. It just means you’ve landed on a web page that doesn’t exist, however, this isn’t a place you want your users to be visiting. I’d recommend using a broken link checker like ahrefs to ensure you don’t have any potential 404 pages.

5. Waterfall

The Waterfall tab is recommended more for advanced users. If you’re building your first website, or you’re not very confident in your technical ability, this area may be a little overwhelming. 

Waterfall shows you all of your website’s HTTP requests. A HTTP request is every individual item on a web page, e.g. an image, CSS file, Google Analytics, etc. 

This is why it’s recommended not to go overboard on plugins, as each HTTP request will add to your site’s loading time. GTmetrix shows you the URL, domain, and size of each HTTP request. 

You can see how long each request takes to load, as well as being able to filter by factors like HTML, images, fonts, etc. This helps understand where the bulk of your HTTP requests are coming from.

6. Timings

The Timings tab gives a more detailed look into how long it takes to reach certain metrics, like connection duration, time to first byte (TTFB), first contentful paint time, etc.

You can hover over each metric in order to see a more detailed description of what it is.

7. Video

This tab is relevant if you enabled the page load videos option when you first ran your GTmetrix test. A list of videos will appear, allowing you to view in great detail how your website loads, what appears first, and the ability to slow videos down.

When a website or web page loads, it can be difficult to determine what content appears first, as in a lot of cases, the speed is quite fast. This will allow you to assess if there’s any issues or errors that appear, even for a split second.

8. History

The final tab is the History tab. As you might have guessed, this allows you to see a history of your results from previous tests. This is useful as you can analyze previous performance results versus current ones, and see how your website’s performance has (hopefully) improved over time.

You’ll be able to see results from the last 30 days, after which they will be deleted.

Although probably the simplest tab, I find the history tab incredibly helpful and will certainly revisit it again and again as improvements are made.

9. Conclusion

GTmetrix is a very useful tool, if you use it properly. I hope that this article has opened your eyes up to how to use GTmetrix, as well as giving you a more detailed look into each of the tabs available.

If you want to improve your website’s performance, you’ll need to look more in-depth into the tabs mentioned in this article. Whilst the summary is good to know, you won’t be able to improve things unless you take the recommendations on board.

However, I also don’t want you to get in too deep with GTmetrix’s scores. Whilst they are incredibly useful, they are just guidance, and not all areas require improvement, or can improve. You may find that your website’s speed is actually very good, but find it interesting to understand how your website loads, and what factors contribute to its loading time.

Laura Hemmington

Laura Hemmington

Laura is an enthusiastic technology researcher, writer, and reviewer. She takes pride in her precision and dedication to the hosting market, and is somewhat of a seasoned pro in these realms.

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