How Reliable Is The Google Mobile Site Speed Test?

The Google mobile site speed test has been around since 2017 and since then it has likely been used by millions of web developers, SEO companies, and website owners all over the world.

I confess I have used this test many times before. And it almost always displays a result that is less than favorable. Sites that we are sinking time and money into seem to be doing poorly in the speed category; the best result I have ever seen was “average”. And that was a result I was always happy with. Usually “average” meant less than 4.4 second load time on a 3G network.

Now, anyone with web dev experience would consider that pretty darn good for 3G – an outdated, WiFi-alternative means of connecting to the internet for mobile devices.

Just a few days ago, Google updated the mobile site speed test. And it’s not just a new look, the mobile site speed test now compares the speed of your site on 4G networks! Finally, we can see how fast our site is on faster networks. Now that 5G was announced by AT&T, this means we need to move to the next step.

So, I decided to test another client, a client whose site runs very quickly. Here is a snap shot of that client’s speed for the past week according to Analytics.

There was a spike on March 4 because of some dev work, but you can see the average page load time is 3.78 seconds. It would have been as low as 3.35 seconds if it weren’t for that dev related spike. 

Still, this is pretty darn quick for an e-commerce site on WordPress with lots of products, descriptions, reviews, and a heavy blog. Not bad, right?

So, I tested this on the new and improved Google mobile site speed tester and…received a bad score as usual. Not again! Drats!

Hang on, does that say what I think it says? Right there, do you see that?

Slow sites start to load in over 2.5 seconds? WHAT? A few quick questions:

  • Excuse me?
  • Excusez-moi?
  • Perdóname?
  • Entschuldigung?
  • Perdão?
  • For real, though?

I mean, honestly, how can we expect sites to be faster than 3 seconds, or even faster than 2 seconds? Unless they are on fiber optic lines connected to phones with 5G powered by intergalactic energies and the prayers of a thousand monks, how in the blue blazes is it possible to get a better score? Unless NASA is working on an internet connection that moves at the speed of light, then what are we aiming for here?

I get it, we all need to dream big, but is a site with any content going to be faster than 2.5 seconds?

So, I decided to channel my inner investigative journalist, and I ran some other tests using Google mobile site speed checker. And here’s what I found:

Twitter – Average

Twitter got the second fastest score of all the sites I checked, clocking in at an ear splitting 1.5 second load time. Google rated it average. Sorry Twitter, you suck.

Facebook – Too Slow

Ha, 2.9 seconds; what, are we moving in Oregon trail conditions here, Facebook? Way too slow for my taste! Get it together Zuck.

Google Site Speed Checker – Too Slow

That’s right, I even checked the checker using itself. Inception speed test stuff. And guess, what? The Checker tool is also too slow! It has outplayed itself.

Google – Average

And the best part: Google, the most well-known website in the friggin’ world, with all the money and resources and brains needed to do almost anything, has an average speed. It takes Google almost a full second to load? I just don’t have that kinda time, Google. I’m gonna need to chat to Sergei and Larry. I am outraged!

What You Should Use Instead of Google Mobile Site Speed Test

Ok, enough of that. What’s the point I’m trying to make? Other than the fact that Google rates us the same way a disapproving teacher would, this test is utterly useless. It’s false advertising. Don’t even bother with it.

What is concerning is that this tool is provided by Google and so any of its grades are going to be taken seriously by those who don’t understand these tools. Our advice is to look elsewhere for site speed testers.

Instead, use Google Analytics’ new Site Speed tab in the Behavior section of Google. Yes, it’s still Google, but it is reliable, and it provides much better analysis and often more accurate site speed results.

There are also site speed plugins that work well, including GTMetrix, Pingdom Tools, and Monitis. Use anything other than the free Google tool.

infographic about making website mobile friendly