GTMetrix is now powered by Lighthouse, and people who test their Elementor sites experience a sudden drop in scores. Which, obviously, leads to a panic, fanatically fueled by a special kind of – self appointed – SEO expert: the kind that screams murder on all channels, clearly without proper researching, scaring unsuspecting Elementor users.
The fact that auditing in GTMetrix is viewed by these “experts” as the one and only result that counts towards high(er) ranking is enough to disqualify them as expert on the subject.
Now this might hurt a little. If your site’s score dropped to a significantly lower score in the updated GTMetrix, it has always been in need of improvement. Get that into your head. Because Lighthouse has been around for a few years, so had you tested your pages in Lighthouse earlier, you would have learned that they needed to be improved earlier. Besides that, GTMetrix used tools that were good, but they didn’t really paint the full picture. Up until last week, November 16, 2020.
“… but Google will definitely give a slow site a red badge in 2021!”
There were rumours about that, in Q4 of 2019. But the current status is that Google now speaks of highlighting pages with a great experience. Which, in itself defies the red badge theory. And if you have visited that page yourself, I’m sure you have seen the link to the Page Experience Guide, where, under this paragraph titled: “Understand how page experience will affect ranking”, they clearly state the following:
While page experience is important, Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar. Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search.
If the parroting pseudo-experts would do their homework and read the actual Google documentation, they would know that speed is not the only ranking factor. In fact, great content still rules the world.
The good news!
If your heart just sank, and you are about to give up on using Elementor, because it all seems to become way too complicated for you, cheer up! Most of the time the majority of issues causing a bad GTMetrix score with your Elementor built website can be fixed. I’m not saying it’s easy peasy, and I’m certainly not saying it can be done quickly, as that depends on several factors. But it can be done. And you will learn a thing or two in that process. Just like I did.
Common sense dictates against scare tactics
In case you’re not convinced yet: I’m not going to present this one on a silver platter… Search for Google’s Mission Statement yourself. You will then quickly understand that they have no interest in scare tactics that might discourage people from creating websites, i.e. putting information on the web.
WARNING – GEEK SPEAK ALERT
The rest of this article contains a lot of geek speak. If you are confused by all the technical terms, but you really want to learn to understand this kind of stuff to make better websites, come find me on any of the channels listed on my contact page, and I will point you in the right direction.
Is Elementor to blame for bad scores?
No. It is not.
You can’t blame Elementor in the sense of claiming that your pages don’t rank well because of getting a low GTMetrix score, purely because Elementor (like any other competing page builder, by the way) wraps widgets with multiple div tags. Which Elementor in fact does, so each element can support animations, background, and many more customization options.
Yes, that indeed creates a higher total of DOM elements, a higher DOM depth, and a higher number of child elements. But that’s not the main cause for shitty ranking. The cause of lousy ranking can be found between the chair and the computer screen.
Anyone putting the sole blame for lousy ranking on Elementor, is blaming a hammer for hitting his thumb, or his car, for killing a pedestrian.
I have witnessed large numbers of people creating an overload of DOM elements on a page, because they are using widgets such as dividers, sections, and columns the incorrect way. Not to mention the people who upload huge image files. And those who don’t properly separate content from design. Oh, and last but not least: those who install tons of third party Elementor Addons, that cause massive code bloat.
You can count on me publishing a bunch of tips and tricks about correct use of sections, columns, margin, padding and proper inline placement of elements, in the near future!
Why demanding the Elementor Developers to prevent all this, undermines your own credibility
Getting upset about the fact that a fantastic tool like Elementor doesn’t prevent you using elements the wrong way, is like getting upset that your fridge doesn’t prevent you from cooking a great looking – but awful tasting – meal.
And no matter what caching plugin you are using to speed up your site after the fact, it doesn’t cure inexperience with proper frontend development, nor does it cure unwillingness to read documentation.
Three things to remember about GTMetrix scores
1. GTMetrix is based on lab results
It’s just a tool. It won’t tell you if a visitor on your site is having a great experience where it comes to actual content. GTMetrix and other page speed testing tools can point you to issues you could technically do better, to improve user experience. For example, in terms of loading times. But it won’t tell you if your content is great or not.
2. A shitty website can get a 100% score on everything
Know that you can build a gruesome, shitty, ugly, and above all – completely inaccessible – website that provides a lousy user experience, while still achieving a 100% score overall in Lighthouse. Manuel Matuzovic (@mmatuzo on Twitter) wrote a clear article: Building the most inaccessible site possible with a perfect Lighthouse score. He’s focused on the accessibility score in this article, but I promise that reading this article is enlightening to anyone willing to understand optimisation in general. Follow that guy, you’ll learn a thing or two!
3. chasing a 100% score is a complete waste of time
Third: if you’re obsessively trying to get your Lighthouse score to a 100%, because you think the outcome of this score is THE ranking factor, you’re wasting your time. And worse, if it’s not your own website, but an assignment, you’re wasting the money of your customer. Watch Martin Splitt from Google itself, myth bust the Speed frenzy in this video:
Hey, don’t take my word for it
Don’t parrot me. Do your own research on ranking, speed testing, etcetera, and start your research on Google Search Central. And if you want to know more about common mistakes (the kind that cause your pages to bloat) and how to avoid them, read Monday Masterclass: Most Common Mistakes Users Make With Elementor, which is supported by a great video tutorial. And for your encouragement, you could read up on what Elementor has done and is doing to improve things from their side.