Believe it or not, there was a time not all that long ago when figuring out how fast your website loaded was a much easier and less complicated process. GTmetrix was king, the masses were happy, and every one rejoiced as they showed off their website speed scores..
Things would change very quickly and that was because Google was quietly warning people that things were about to change.
GTmetrix Website Speed Testing Tool – Version 1.0 (Good Times For Everyone)
Other than tools like Pingdom, everyone was using GTmetrix and that was because it was very user-friendly and did one thing very well – The test gave you a simple PageSpeed Score with a letter grade and it gave you a fully loaded time which told you how long it took to load your website.
Like anxious students waiting for their teacher to reward them with a good grade, it was relatively easy for anyone to get decent scores. Everyone joined the speed party and totally loving every minute of it!
This became an obsession for many, watching their grade scores fluctuate with each tweak and continuously switching plugins to see even the smallest incremental benefits.
You could actually observe the changes in performance scores, with the most important single factor… how long does it take for my website to load? The average person without a ton of technical or programming skills could make changes on the fly, refreshing their browser every 30 seconds and checking out their website test scores to see if anything changed.
On all the Facebook WordPress Speed Groups, it was commonplace for new members to improve their website speed from 4-5+ seconds, down to less than 2 seconds over the course of an afternoon with help from other members in the group with relative ease.
All of the WordPress Caching and Performance plugins were loving it, and by ticking off all the right settings in the dashboard you could get a really fast loading website.
There were already speed optimization services out there that were charging top dollar to help speed up websites, sending clients a simple GTmetrix before and after score.
At the same time, there was increased noise coming from Google about this whole Core Web Vitals thing, a warning that these page ‘experience metrics’ would be officially going live in May — it was largely ignored despite a new tab in Google Search Console showing things like LCP and CLS? What did this all mean?
This was a video that Google Search Central uploaded in July 2020, that tried to explain all the false information out there and what was coming our way. It was also in July that I was already testing against Core Web Vitals, switching from WP Rocket to Swift Performance on my hobby site at that time.
GTMetrix also announced shortly after that changes were coming on their end too. I remember them coming right into the Facebook groups and pumping the tires about the new stuff coming our way. Looking back at their blog, that would have been around the beginning of September and everyone was totally excited about the upcoming launch of GTmetrix 2.0
This was the golden age of website speed optimization, everyone was doing well… and everything was about to change
GTmetrix – Version 2.0 (The Bloody Apocalypse)
Again looking back here, GTmetrix 2.0 was launched sometime mid-November and there was absolute outrage.
GTmetrix changed how they tested website performance, now powered by Lighthouse. Gone was the comfortable feeling of how long it took to load your website in seconds, now everyone was facing failing grades with new a bunch of new terminology.
The scores weren’t only bad, nobody really understood what it meant. There was confusion, there was outright anger.
The single biggest issue from users is they couldn’t see how long it took for their websites to load, it was about a week later when GTmetrix allowed members to login and get their legacy reports (how long it took for their websites to load in seconds).
Although GTmetrix may tell a different story, it’s never really been the same since. Many people simply stopped using their website to test their scores.
Unless you upgraded to a PRO account, you could only get 10 tests a day, that they switched to 50 tests per month. The biggest miss is that they only offer desktop scores for free users and not mobile testing.
I understand GTmetrix needs to make money, but they completely dropped the ball and hurt the entire website optimization industry by their lack of understanding why people used their website in the first place. If people have to pay to get mobile test score results, they will simply go elsewhere where they can get it for free.
It was in those 24 hours that GTmetrix died, I rarely go back there these days.
How GTmetrix 2.0 Move To Lighthouse And PageSpeed Insights Killed WordPress Caching Plugins
WP Rocket made the strong claim for a long time that was quoted many times over that scores didn’t mean anything. Only website speed.
There is some truth to that, it served their purposes well because caching plugins relied on total website loading time.
When GTmetrix 2.0 launched, it destroyed every caching plugin out there. They all failed these new tests too and people started to complain about why these premium plugins that they paid for didn’t work anymore.
WP Rocket has since changed their tune.
If you’re wondering if Google PageSpeed Insights score matters, our short answer is: yes. Google PageSpeed Insights is important.
It hasn’t always been like that for us. In the past, we said that you shouldn’t care about the Google PageSpeed Insights score because the grade alone wasn’t an indicator of speed.
While there could still be a difference between the Google PageSpeed score and your site’s loading time, things have changed — and we need to keep up with the news.
Starting from May 2021, the Google PageSpeed score will be closely related to your SEO performance because of the Core Web Vitals included in the new Page Experience ranking factor.
Caching plugins were never designed to fix poorly-coded themes and bloated page builders, they are all trying to fix these issues now right now, but the solution lies beyond what they can do themselves. Caching plugins can’t magically remedy all of your problems.
All you need to do is visit one of their FG groups.
“I just paid $xxx and surprised that my website failed the Google speed test. What am I doing wrong? How can I get a refund?”
Ultimately there is a ton of education that needs to happen moving forward, people need to learn how to read their results in Google Search Console and how these experience factors impact their Core Web Vitals scores. I’m afraid that this isn’t going to happen anytime soon, and will collectively be a struggle for all.
Gone is the golden age of website speed optimization, now it’s time for everyone to go back to Core Web Vitals school and figure out this new set of rules that Google is telling us that we need to learn.