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Site Running Slow? How to Use GTmetrix to Boost Performance

Why is site speed important?

Site speed is one of the most critical website metrics. Here are some of the main reasons why it’s critical to make sure your site is speedy:

  • Human attention spans are short. We already know the average human has a lower attention span than a goldfish—squirrel! To quantify this, most people will click out of your website if it takes longer than 2 or three seconds to load.
  • Site speed affects SEO. Google has over 200 ranking factors to determine how to prioritize your content in the SERPs, and site speed is one of them. If your site loads quickly, Google favors you. If it doesn’t, good luck getting searchers to find your website.
  • The faster your site, the better the UX. Let’s say users stick around and wait for your site to load. That was super nice of them. However, it will be difficult to keep them on your site if it takes 100 years for each page to load. The faster your page loads, the more pleasant the user experience.

Now that you know why site speed is important, let’s talk about a tool that will help you check your site speed: GTmetrix.

What is GTmetrix?

GTmetrix is a site speed check tool that shows you how fast your website is loading.

This tool allows you to check how your site is loading on a desktop and across mobile devices, including different types of mobile devices.

You can also check how your page loads from 65 servers in 22 locations around the world. This is an excellent feature if you are receiving traffic from a specific location and want to make sure your site is up to snuff.

Our customer support team often uses this tool to find out if there’s a specific code or site element causing the site to run slow.

The good news is you don’t even need HostGator’s customer support team to find out your page load speeds. You can check it yourself using the same tool.

How to use GTmetrix to increase site speed

The good news is you can test basic page speed elements for free in GTmetrix. There are a couple of different ways to do this.

For a quick test, head over to gtmetrix.com and enter your URL into the “test your site” box.

Once you press “test your site,” GTmetrix will run a quick analysis and return your results.

You’ll notice the free account sets the default location to Vancouver, Canada, and the default server to Google Chrome.

You’ll see the following information:

  • GTmetrix grade. This gives you an overall score that evaluates site performance and structure.
  • Web vitals. This includes things like how long it takes for your largest bit of content to load, how much time is blocked by scripts, and CLS.
  • Speed visualization. The free tool also offers an intervaled capture of your page load, showing you what elements appear and when.
  • Performance. Performance metrics include things like speed index, time to interactive, and largest contentful paint.
  • Structure. If you click on the “structure” tab, you’ll see an in-depth audit of everything related to your site’s structure and the impact it has on load time.
  • Waterfall chart. Another tab shows you a request-by-request visualization of the page load. This chart can be a bit difficult to interpret at first, but don’t worry. GTmetrix offers a tutorial on how to read the chart.
  • Report history. This includes basic historical data.

These are the tools you have access to if you simply visit the main page and type in your URL.

If you want additional access, you can get it by creating a free account.

Once you login to your free account and run a page test, you’ll have access to additional tools, including:

  • Locations. A registered free account lets you set locations in Dallas, Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, Sydney, São Paulo, and Vancouver.
  • Devices. When you register for a free account, you can also test from additional devices including Chrome (Desktop) and Firefox (Desktop) for free.
  • Connection speeds. This free feature lets you test various options from Broadband down to 56k.
  • Historical data. You’ll get more historical reports and be able to add notes and download data.
  • Video. When you log in, you can record a video of the page loading and identify bottlenecks.

Remember, with the free account, you can only test one page a day.

To access these additional features, you can click on the “Sign up” box in the top right corner of the main page.

Once you’ve created your account, the process is similar. You enter your site in the URL box, click the “Analysis Options” box to select additional options, and run your test.

When selecting your options, it’s best to select the location nearest to you, and “Broadband fast,” since most people have speedy broadband.

Once you run your test, you can dive deeper into all the different results available to you on the registered free plan.

For most website owners, it’s sufficient to use the free tool, but it is worth it to register for a free account to get access to the additional tools.

If you own a larger website, host other websites, and want to test site speeds, or need additional options (e.g., locations, devices, etc.), then look into the paid plan.

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