WordPress speed test

People keep telling you that you need your WordPress site to load fast…but how do you actually figure out how quickly your site loads to know where it stands? Easy – use one of the WordPress speed test tools that I’m about to share in this post.

All of these tools make it simple to test your WordPress site’s performance – usually, it’s as easy as pasting in your site’s URL and letting the tool work its magic.

Below, I’ll share the five best WordPress speed test tools, as well as:

  • Which tools are best for beginners, and which are best for more advanced users
  • How the tools calculate your site’s load time (e.g. some test mobile performance, others desktop performance, etc.)

Let’s dig into the tools. Then, I’ll also share some best practices at the end.

Five best WordPress speed test tools for all types of users

1. Pingdom

A good option for…casual users and developers alike who want to test the desktop version of their site.

Pingdom is probably the most popular WordPress speed test tool. It manages to do a great job of both:

  • Making the results accessible to beginners
  • Giving advanced users plenty of helpful data if they want it

To use it, you head to the Pingdom tools website and:

  1. Paste in your site’s URL
  2. Choose the location to run the test from
  3. Click Start Test

Pingdom

Then, Pingdom will start the tool (you might have to wait in line for a few minutes if lots of other people are trying to run tests).

If you’re a beginner, the Summary box gives you all the most important information, including your site’s:

Pingdom WordPress speed test results

Below that, Pingdom will give you a list of what your site does well (or poorly). If you click the down arrow, you can see more specific information:

Pingdom more details

And further down, you can find information about the specific requests on your site, as well as a waterfall analysis.

This is really helpful for drilling down into your site’s performance – but it requires some advanced knowledge to benefit from. KeyCDN has a good explanation of it if you want to learn more.

2. GTmetrix

A good option for…casual users and developers alike who want to test the desktop version of their site.

Like Pingdom, GTmetrix is another tool that offers a good balance of beginner-friendliness with depth of data.

To use it, you just plug in your site’s URL and click Analyze. Then, it will spit back a detailed analysis of your site.

At the top, you get a nice summary like Pingdom, including:

  • Load time
  • PageSpeed score
  • YSlow score (this is the same idea as PageSpeed Insights)

GTmetrix results

And then below that, you can use the tabs to dig in with more detail. As with Pingdom, you can expand any of the suggestions to view more specific information. And the What’s this mean? button is helpful if you’re confused by any of the recommendations:

GTmetrix more details

If you sign up for a free GTmetrix account, you’ll be able to run tests from different locations and browsers.

Note – GTmetrix calculates “page load time” a little differently than Pingdom. For that reason, it’s normal that your site seems to load “slower” in GTmetrix than it does in Pingdom. The difference is a little complicated for casual users. But I will explain it at the end of this post if you’re curious.

3. WebPagetest

A good option for…developers or advanced users looking to test both desktop and mobile performance.

WebPagetest is the most advanced WordPress speed test tool on this list in terms of the depth of functionality and data it provides…but it’s also tough for casual users to benefit from because it’s built more for developers.

When you set up a test with WebPagetest, you can use the Advanced Settings area to:

  • Simulate a slow connection (e.g. to mimic a user on 3G)
  • Change how many tests to run
  • Choose which browser and device type to use
  • Disable JavaScript
  • …configure a whole lot more

WebPagetest Advanced options

If you’re overwhelmed by those options, I recommend popping over to the Simple Testing tab:

WebPagetest simple test

By default, WebPagetest runs the test three times to get more accurate data (Pingdom and GTmetrix only run it once).

Once the test finishes, you’ll be presented with a ton of data:

WebPagetest results

If you want to dig into what all this means, Moz has a great post explaining all the data.

4. Google Mobile Speed Test

A good option for…casual users who want to test the mobile version of their site.

Google’s free Mobile Speed Test tool is actually powered by the WebPagetest tool from above. But it does a great job of making WebPagetest’s data more accessible to casual users, so this is a good one to use if you felt overwhelmed by WebPagetest.

If you didn’t pick it up from the name, this WordPress speed test tool specifically focuses on testing your site’s performance for mobile users.

All you do is plug in your site’s URL. Then, Google will tell you how long your site took to load using a mobile device and simulating a 3G connection:

Google mobile speed test

You can then click the Get My Free Report button for some personalized tips on how to speed up the mobile version of your site and make it more mobile-friendly.

5. Google PageSpeed Insights

A good option for…people who want lots of recommendations straight from Google’s mouth.

In the past, Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool only gave you suggestions – it wouldn’t actually give you a number for how long your site took to load.

That’s changed, though. Now, Google will give you real page load times for both First Contentful Paint (FCP) and DOM Content Loaded (DCL). These are basically two different ways of deciding when your site is “finished loading”. Learn more here:

Google PageSpeed Insights results

If you have a low PageSpeed Insights score alongside poor page load times, we wrote a whole post on how to improve your PageSpeed Insights score with things like caching plugins. But remember, your site’s actual page load times are what matter. And for that, your WordPress hosting is still going to play a big role (we tested it!).

Two things to pay attention to when using these WordPress speed test tools

To round things out, I want to cover two important factors to pay attention to when you run a WordPress speed test.

1. Your test location will affect your results

Where you run your test from will naturally have an effect on page load times. As a default, you should choose a test location that’s as close as possible to the bulk of your audience.

But it’s also a good idea to use different locations around the world to make sure your site loads fast for everyone.

If you notice your site loads slowly from certain locations, you might want to look into a content delivery network (CDN).

2. “Load time” is not the same across all tools

Yeah…here’s the tricky thing. Because of how websites work, defining what “load time” means is actually a little complicated.

There are all kinds of terms like:

  • First contentful paint
  • DOM content loaded
  • Onload time
  • Fully loaded time

At a basic level, the differences are essentially whether a page is considered loaded when:

  • All the content is visible to the human visitor, even if there’s still some background activity going on behind-the-scenes.
  • Everything is 100% loaded and there’s no more background activity.

Pingdom uses onload time, while GTmetrix uses fully loaded time. That’s why your Pingdom load times will often be a little faster (explanation of the difference). It’s not important that you fully understand the differences. But you should make sure you’re being consistent when you compare times.

And that wraps up our post on the best WordPress speed test tools! Have any other questions about testing WordPress performance? Let us know in the comments!
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