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Nike, Home Depot, and ESPN: All Google PageSpeed Failures, So What?

January 24, 2022

Recently we had to optimize a client’s website for better performance on Google PageSpeed. We have made it no secret that we think PageSpeed-sucks, but when you live in a world governed by Google’s search-engine-Gestapo, you have to play ball to some extent. So off we set out to increase the PageSpeed scores and improve the search engine ranking for our client. 

But I got to thinking. If we are out here trying so hard to play by the rules, how do worldwide top 20 websites stack up when scored through Google. After all, most of the top 20 websites will be page-one results for searches. 

What I found was shocking (scores are out of 100, good scores are 80+):

  • Nike: 18
  • ESPN: 13
  • Target: 35
  • CNN: 12
  • Home Depot: 7

Now, keep in mind these scores often change a bit with each test, but you get the picture – they score horribly. So if these are some of the world’s top 20 websites, what gives? Shouldn’t they be nailing these tests to keep their top search result spots?

The Truth About PageSpeed

The answer is, not really. You see, all other factors being equal, PageSpeed scoring will help you beat the competition. But all other factors never are similar. Nike, Home Depot, and ESPN are some of the biggest brands globally, so millions visit their websites, share their content on social media, and search Google for their content. This brand prominence is why Google favors them as a top result in their business categories. Google is trying to show relevant content, and they know these brands apply to more people than, say, a startup competitor. 

So what? Does this mean that you need to become a top brand to compete in Organic Search? Yes! 

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The truth is you don’t have to become Nike, Home Depot, or ESPN to gain the kind of market share in your niche that results in higher rankings. But you have to try. It would help if you continually expanded your network of engaged customers and users to build that brand equity. If that sounds truly difficult, it’s because it is! 

Again, there lies the brutal truth, if we could simply optimize our websites and win the Organic Search war against our competitors, that would be wonderful and easy. But marketing isn’t a formula; it is a process. 

Do you ignore PageSpeed then?

As much as I want the answer to be yes, that would be unwise. Unless you are a top 20 brand, you need to do whatever you can to keep fighting for recognition. However, there are some simple rules to follow to keep yourself sane:

  • Forget about a perfect score: you probably won’t have a perfect PageSpeed score, and this is ok.
  • Balance user experience with good scores: the truth is, we can get straight As for you on PageSpeed, but we have to sacrifice your user experience to do it. Is that worth it? A simple HTML page will score amazingly well and turn off most users.
  • Use tools other than Google: Google is pretty biased in how it comes back; you can get a complete picture with sites like Dot-Com Tools or GT Metrix. They use Google’s Lighthouse test but also give back the information in a way that is easier to digest.
  • Compare yourself to yourself: the fact is that you only are racing yourself. If your Organic Search is growing compared to the prior period and prior year, celebrate and don’t get lost in the minutia. 
  • Focus on building your network: it bears repeating if you feel the pull toward obsessing over PageSpeed; take a deep breath and focus those efforts on reaching more in your target market. 

In the end, we want a rational focus on PageSpeed to permeate the digital world. It matters but isn’t the end-all, be-all – may we all fail at PageSpeed like Nike, Home Depot, and ESPN!

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