5 Free Tools to Increase Your Site Speed

By Matt Zajechowski

We’ve all heard the saying “time is money.” This is especially true when it comes to your website.  In a world where everything has to be immediate and on-demand, nothing’s more annoying than waiting for a page to load.

With 8-second-long attention spans (less than a goldfish), human beings have little patience for slow page loads. If you want to get your message across quickly, you need a fast-loading page.

Keeping the attention of prospective consumers isn’t the only benefit of fast-loading pages—they’re also important to your SEO campaign. There are several website speed tools you can use to check how fast your website loads. Check out these free site speed tools to accelerate your load times and improve your overall user experience.

Page Speed Tools at a Glance

  • Best for Core Web Vitals: Google PageSpeed Insights
  • Best for Beginners: GTmetrix
  • Best for Testing Page Speed from Different Locations: Pingdom
  • Best for a Deep Dive: WebPageTest
  • Best for Developers: Google Chrome DevTools

1. Google PageSpeed Insights 

Of all the tools I use, I rely most on this. It reflects Google’s recommendations for how a given site’s speed performance can be improved for both mobile and desktop.

For example, the “Opportunities” section presents suggestions for improving site performance, such as eliminating render-blocking resources, reducing unused JavaScript/CSS, and enabling text compression.

Screenshot of Google PageSpeed Insights

Additionally, it offers a deeper look into your website’s performance for important metrics including Core Web Vitals, which is a Google ranking factor. Below, you can see an example of a page test that includes the Core Web Vitals Assessment and the page’s scores for notable metrics.

Screenshot of Google PageSpeed Insights

Although it lacks some features that are readily available in other site speed tools, it’s definitely a great starting point.

2. GTMetrix

In addition to providing a performance score and advanced recommendations on how to speed up your site, GTMetrix offers a breakdown of your page content—displaying the resources that take up the most total page size and requests.

You can also filter their recommendations by a specific performance metric. For example, if you’re only focused on improving your LCP score—which is a metric that measures the amount of time it takes for the main content of your page to load—you can select that metric in the “Top Issues” section to only see recommendations related to LCP.

Screenshot of GTMetrix

3. Pingdom

Similar to GTMetrix, Pingdom shows you what elements of your site are taking the longest time to load. For example, if 52% of the load time is spent rendering images, you or your developer can take steps to optimize images to help them load faster and reduce page load speed.

Screenshot of Pingdom

Pingdom also provides an overview of file requests on a page. This feature allows you to visualize all of the resources that are loading for a page and how long each file takes to load. In addition, this is a great tool to see which files are taking the longest to load and evaluate the best solution to improve site speed.

Screenshot of Pingdom

4. WebPageTest

WebPagetest.org has been around for a while but often feels like the forgotten site speed tool compared to others. Similar to the above tools, WebPageTest crawls a website and gives specific information about site speed, security issues, and specific code call outs requiring correction. The main difference is WebPageTest gives three “runs” or options for deep diving. There isn’t one output to review, but three. This helps tremendously when figuring out whether or not issues are persistent or one-off problems.

Screenshot of WebPageTest

WPT provides a waterfall view with the entire page load, film strip views to see how pages load and pick up on specific layout shifts that occur. However, the biggest takeaway from WPT is its Opportunities & Experiments section of the report. Here, you can dive in to specific areas to improve. For example, you can find HTTP redirect requests, fonts loading with settings that hide text during page load, and large DOM sizes. This is just a sample of what can be found within a WPT test.

5. Google Chrome DevTools

Chrome DevTools is the least user-friendly tool among this list. It requires using Chrome and some technical prowess. Unlike the other tools, DevTools runs a complete page load and analyzes it within the browser. DevTools will give you a breakdown of the items that make up a page load: scripting, loading, rendering, and painting.

To get to DevTools, right click your page and click Inspect. From there, DevTools is open. There are many tabs, from Elements to Sources, to Network, to Performance Insights. The Elements tab can help you find snippets of code without bringing up the page source, or finding color codes. The Lighthouse tab can run experiments for you to analyze page load to look at performance, accessibility, SEO, and more. And, the Performance Insights tab provides a great waterfall view of scripts running on page load and shows whether they pass or fail for key CWV metrics.

Improving Site Load Speed

After using these site speed tools a few times you might default to a favorite, but we always recommend running each tool separately to perform a full analysis.

Once this is done, you’ll probably have a laundry list of potential improvements. You’ll need to determine which ones are most important to address. In my experience, the following improvements are the easiest to implement and give the most substantial results:

Compress your images

Running images through a round of lossless compression doesn’t hurt quality, and it helps them load faster. All original data remains, the compression will reduce the size of the image, remove excess and redundant information, and reduce the file sizes.

If you were to decompress the images, all data would still be there (which is not the case with lossy compression).

Leverage browser caching

Every time someone comes to the site, the browser needs to render your images. But if you set browser caching, the browser doesn’t need to re-load the image every time. Instead, they pull the cached version. This will make a big improvement for repeat visitors to your website!

I usually set most images out for a week, but it can depend on how often you change your styles/images. You can also leverage browser caching for CSS and Javascript files, so they don’t need to load every time. If you haven’t been using browser caching, expect big wins in the speed department!

You can also install cache plugins onto your WordPress site. These plugins allow users to immediately cache their website with one click.

Defer parsing of JavaScript

Before a page is fully loaded, the browser must parse together all scripts, leading to slow load times. Ask your developer if you can just execute the files needed to render a web page, in order to reduce the initial load time. The rest of the JavaScript can fire after the initial page load, as long as it’s not needed for rendering.

These are all recommendations your web developer will be able to implement for you to improve your page speed. Once you receive confirmation that things have been updated, we recommend you run the site speed tools again.

Check your website one final time to make sure everything has been executed properly. Once you’ve updated some of the fundamental elements and re-checked your site, start performing monthly checks in your analytics account. The Site Speed report in Google Analytics will be able to compare pre-site speed analysis dates to post-site speed analysis dates, to continue monitoring and analyzing your site’s performance.

By now you should realize you don’t need to be a developer to diagnose page speed issues. The free tools above are great resources when doing technical or Core Web Vitals audits, or simply going through the process of speeding up your site. If you need help with improving your site speed, individual page loads, or even your SEO strategy, reach out to us today!

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