Know Your Numbers
In today’s digital age, understanding the performance and SEO of your website is key to achieving online success. That’s why I’m excited to introduce you to an essential tool that every website owner should use: Google Lighthouse.
Auditing your website helps pinpoint areas that need improvement, providing a clear path to optimize for performance, accessibility, user experience, and SEO. These metrics give you a baseline from which to grow and enhance your site’s effectiveness.
Introducing Google Lighthouse
Google Lighthouse is a free, user-friendly tool designed to audit your web pages. It assesses performance, accessibility, best practices, and SEO, offering actionable suggestions for improvement. Watch the video below for a detail step-by-step guide. Try to follow along to perform audits on your website.
- On your laptop or desktop computer (not mobile or tablet), open your Chrome browser, and then open the Incognito mode by clicking the three dots at the top right corner of Chrome, and select “New Incognito Window“.
You don’t have to use Incognito mode to run these audits, but I’d recommend it so that your personal browsing history or extensions won’t affect the analysis.
- On the Incognito Chrome browser tab, navigate to the webpage you want to audit.
- Right-click anywhere on the page and select “Inspect.”
Or if you are using a Windows computer, just simply press the F12 key, or the Ctrl+Shift+C shortcut combination.
- It then opens up the Chrome DevTools panel either on the bottom or on the right side of the webpage, depending on your settings. I prefer setting it at the bottom, but it’s really a personal choice.
- Select “Lighthouse” from the panel’s toolbar. (If you can’t find the Lighthouse option, click on the two arrows at the end of the toolbar. You’ll see it there.)
- On the Lighthouse report panel, you can select Mode (keep it at the default Navigation option), Device (Mobile or Desktop), and Categories of website audits you would like to analyze.
* I usually just select Desktop for Device because the Mobile simulator uses a 3G network which doesn’t reflect most of the popular cellular networks users use, so the results for performance won’t be accurate. Maybe Google will update that in the near future. For now, let’s stick with the Desktop analysis. Anyway, for the SEO metrics we care about, it doesn’t matter which device you use. The results should be the same.
- Under Categories, let’s select “Performance“, “Accessibility“, “Best Practice“, and “SEO“. Then click “Analyze page load.”
If you are only analyzing a regular website, not a web application, there’s no need to select “Progressive Web App”.
- After a moment, Lighthouse will generate a report for you in a new tab.
Please keep in mind that this analysis you just ran was the results only for this page you opened, not for the entire website. Each page on your website would have different results, especially for Best Practices, Accessibility, and SEO. They all depend on various factors on each page.
To run the analysis for another web page, you can either open a new tab and repeat the steps we just did. Or, you can stay on this tab, navigate to a different page, click the report dropdown at the top left corner of the Lighthouse panel, and select “new report”, then click “Analyze page load”.
Understanding Your Report
What Does Each Scoring Number Mean?
Lighthouse assigns a score between 0 and 100 to each of the selected categories. If a score is between 90 and 100, it indicates that your page is well optimized for that category. If the scores are above 90, they will have a green circle. If the scores are below 90, they will have an orange or red circle. That means there’s more work to do for optimization.
What Does Each Category Mean?
Clicking on the circle of each score number, it takes you down to the section of the specific category, which highlights the details of the metrics, diagnostics, and passed audits for the page. So basically it tells you which areas in this category are doing well, and which areas are not doing well, and makes suggestions on what can be improved. Let’s do a quick rundown on what each of these audit categories mean:
- Performance: it measures the web page’s speed and load time. You’ve been a website visitor yourself, so you know how important fast web page loads are for user experience. It also indirectly affects SEO. A lot of times what kind of server, hosting configurations, and web builder your website is using can largely affect the performance metrics, and there’s not much we can do to improve. However, depending on your website, there are still areas we can tackle and improve. I will show you some tricks in a future video.
The accessibility test analyzes how friendly your webpage is for people who use assistive technologies such as screen readers or special keyboards. For example, it looks at elements like buttons and links to see whether they’re described well. It also checks if images have alt text, which helps users with limited vision understand the images through screen readers. Alt texts are crucial for SEO too. If there are people among your potential audience that use assistive technology, or if your business is required to be ADA compliant, it’s important all your web pages follow these web accessibility guidelines.
- Best Practices
This category reviews if your page adheres to modern web development standards, such as secure SSL certificates, up-to-date code, and optimized images. Some of these are managed at the server or website builder level, but there are improvements you can make during development. I will be sharing videos and articles with more details.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Lighthouse evaluates if your webpage meets SEO best practices, ensuring it’s indexed and ranked effectively by search engines. This includes mobile-friendliness, structured URLs, optimized titles and meta descriptions, and more. In the future videos, we will further explore all the components that affect your on-page SEO scores, and how we can improve them. Stay tuned.
Google PageSpeed Insights (An Alternative Tool)
Lighthouse is also available through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
Open the tool. Enter your page URL, and click “Analyze.” This tool will generate reports for all categories, except Progressive Web App.
Auditing your website is just the beginning for improving your website. Implementing the suggested improvements will significantly boost your site’s performance and SEO ranking.
Ready to dive deeper and start optimizing your website? Watch our detailed video walkthrough on YouTube and follow along with the steps outlined in this blog. Your journey to a high-performing website begins with understanding and action.
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