As good stewards of the websites under our purview, we track a series of vital metrics and make our recommendations based on verifiable data. One of the most important of these is how fast a website loads. Google recently included page speed in its updated focus on core web vitals, for good reason: if your page is slow, people won’t want to visit it.
Considering that’s exactly the opposite of what we want as SEO professionals, we use a couple of important tools to measure site speed. We wanted to know and maybe you want to know, too: which is better, Google PageSpeed Insights vs Pingdom?
One Good Tool Is Good, More Is Better
We use both tools as part of our SEO site audit processes. The most common implementation is to use Google’s tool as the default with the backup use of Pingdom if a page doesn’t have a lot of traffic. Both have their benefits.
Google PageSpeed Insights
If there’s an official tool by Google, we’re going to use it. After all, their search engine is the one we want to rank for. And we don’t need to cite data here to prove that it’s the top search engine in the world—okay, fine, here you go: according to statista.com, Google has 86% of the search engine market share.
Google’s tools are always going to give us the most accurate data as it relates to metrics that are important to Google, which means they’re metrics that are important to us. As long as it has so much of the search volume, supplying a gargantuan share of the organic traffic on the internet, then we would be silly to ignore it.
You might be wondering why we would use anything other than Google PageSpeed Insights, if the results we get from it are so valuable. We don’t do anything without data, and that’s where Pingdom helps us—it provides good data, sure, but it also has a bonus feature that Google doesn’t: transparency.
The primary measurement of page speed is called ping time, which is another term for latency, or how long it takes for the data to go from your device to the page you’re visiting, and then back to your device. We don’t know the actual source of Google’s site speed measurements, whereas Pingom, on the other hand, tells us exactly where its servers are.
That’s good because, even in this age of fast-as-light data transfers, distance still matters. A page that is hosted in a location thousands of miles from a person visiting it is prone to higher latency, or ping time. After all, we haven’t invented a technology that can move faster than light.
Not only does Pingdom tell you where the servers are, it lets you choose which server to use in your latency tests. That’s something Google doesn’t offer, and it can be really useful when your website’s traffic tends to come from one specific place. You can also use Pingdom to find out whether the site speed differences you might be seeing are geographic.
Onload Time vs. Time to Interactive
Time to Interactive (Google’s metric) is the amount of time it takes the page to fully load every element and function. You have more extreme timings in these reports, but you also have a more honest look at how long it can take for a user to gain access to the complete site experience on a device.
Instead of Google’s Time to Interactive metric, a better comparison for Pingdom’s Onload Time metric is Google’s Speed Index metric. Here’s a comparison of those two for a random page on the internet.
- Pingdom Load Time: 3.69 seconds
- Google PageSpeed Mobile Speed Index: 16.2 seconds
- Google PageSpeed Desktop Speed Index: 5 seconds
Clearly, the desktop results from both Google and Pingdom are much closer to each other. But we’re also seeing a pretty wide gap between the desktop experience and the mobile experience. How does that happen?
The leading theory, and one that seems to match the data, is that Pingdom likely uses a real browser to evaluate pages, while Google PageSpeed uses an emulated browser in situations where there is no field data collected in Google Chrome. That emulation can cause a discrepancy that is important to keep in mind.
The Conclusion: Which One is Better?
The answer is both! We told you from the top: we use Google most of the time, and Pingdom is great for filling in the cracks that can appear. As with so many measurements, you’re almost always better off relying on more than one source for your data.