Use Google Lighthouse to Point the Way

Gordon Smith
By Gordon Smith

Google Lighthouse is a tool offered by Google to help website owners understand more about how Google views your site.

As you may know Google has really turned its attention to User Experience (UX) is recent years. Although on-site content and high quality inbound links remain the cornerstones to success in Google, UX is becoming an increasingly important way for websites to beat the competition in Google. 

Measure your site's performance in one minute

So if you have one minute, you can now run off a report which will tell you exactly what Google thinks of your site :-)

First of all go to one of the many websites which can run Lighthouse online. Our favourite is the Measure tool over at web.dev. Once there, type in the URL of the page you want to measure the performance of. An obvious place to start is your website's home page. 

Click "Run Audit" and wait a few seconds while Lighthouse measures your page. The first thing you'll see is a set of four scores, like this:

Google Lighthouse scoreboard

Each score is out of 100. Let's dig into these scores a little:

Performance

This metric is all about speed and mobile-usability. It measures things like:

  • The length of time it took for the first things (text or images) from your site to appear on the user's screen
  • The length of time it took for the biggest thing on the page to appear completely
  • The length of time it took for the page to become "interactive" (i.e., you can submit forms, click on buttons etc.)
  • The amount things jump around on the page while they are loading

Why care about site speed? Well, your users care. For each additional one second of loading times on mobiles, conversion rates can fall by up to 20%.

If your performance score is low, do not fear! There are many ways you can improve your score. But it must be said, the performance metric is probably the most difficult of the four to improve, as it involves getting very hands-on with your website's internal structure. 

Accessibility

This metric is all about how easy your website is to use for all users, including those using assistive technologies such as low-vision users using screen-readers. 

It includes easy-to-fix elements such as high-contrast lettering, easy-to-distinguish links and buttons, nicely spaced buttons which can't be clicked accidentally, properly labelled form fields and buttons. 

In general, websites should strive to adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and the Lighthouse report measures your site against some aspects of these guidelines. 

Good news! These elements are often easy to fix without getting involved in your website's internals. 

Best practice

This metric measures how closely your site adheres to web best practice in terms of security. Aspects include:

  • Using https instead of http
  • Avoiding using scripts which are known to have security vulnerabilities
  • Avoids generating internal errors
  • Displaying images at the intended size and shape

Again, good news! Most of these items should be easy to fix. Using the most up to date software on your site is a good place to start. If your scripts do generate errors they can often be fixed or simply swapped for ones that don't. 

SEO

Lighthouse considers some basic SEO best practice techniques. Google doesn't give much information away about how it ranks websites, so Lighthouse is one of the rare tools Google has developed which does tell you something about how to improve your SEO. 

Basic SEO best-practices will get your score off the ground and maybe all the way to 100! Aspects include:

  • Ensuring Google is allowed to access your page
  • Using valid robots.txt file
  • Using descriptive text in hyperlinks instead of non-descriptive text such as "Read more"
  • Using page titles and meta descriptions

Fortunately most websites are built using software which takes care of most of the elements automatically. But its always worth checking and bringing your site as close to 100% SEO as you can. It's usually not difficult to do.

What if your score is low?

First of all, don't panic. A low Lighthouse score doesn't mean that your site can't rank in Google. Even sites with minor security-based howlers may still rank. But it's only fair to your users to ensure your site is fast, secure, error-free and accessible. 

Follow the best practice guidelines available from Lighthouse to easily improve your scores. If you are in doubt or need assistance with some of the more technical issues, contact us for advice