Staging Site Performance Review (as part of an SEO migration plan)

Staging Site Performance Review (as part of an SEO migration plan)

Staging Site Performance Review (As part of an SEO migration plan)

You’ve got content for all the priority topics you want to rank for, you’ve provided your technical SEO checklist and your redirect map document to the development team, you’ve reviewed and optimized internal linking on your staging site. You're nearly there!

But… don’t forget - performance is becoming more and more important for users and for SEO. Page speed and performance are important from an SEO perspective for two reasons:

  1. Crawl Budget: Slow page speeds mean that search engines can crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget. Essentially, this means that if your site contains a lot of slow pages, Google is more likely to give up crawling it before it has even found them all. Those pages that aren’t found by Google will not be eligible to rank for relevant searches.
  2. Core Web Vitals: Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics that relate to speed, responsiveness and visual stability. They help site owners measure user experience on the web. As of June 2021, Google has integrated these metrics into its ranking algorithm, which means that if a lot of pages on your site have poor speed, responsiveness or visual stability, then your content will be less likely to rank versus competitors who’s pages perform better.

So before going live, make sure that your pages are well optimized for these performance metrics. There are many ways you can go about testing staging site page performance. The most common way to do this is by using Google Lighthouse.

Google Lighthouse is an open-source auditing tool that helps developers improve the quality of their web pages. It can be run via Chrome Dev Tools and it offers a variety of options for auditing your web pages.  

To audit a page on your staging site:

  1. In Google Chrome, go to the URL you want to audit. 
  2. Open Chrome DevTools.
  3. Click the Audits tab.
  4. Click Perform an Audit. DevTools shows you a list of audit categories. Leave them all enabled.
  5. Click Run Audit. After 30 to 60 seconds, Lighthouse gives you a report on the page.

The page-level report that is generated will give you scores for a number of different metrics.

Keep an eye out for:

Performance 

The Performance score is a weighted average of the metric scores. Naturally, more heavily weighted metrics have a bigger effect on your overall Performance score. The metric scores are not visible in the report, but are calculated under the hood. Try to ensure that this is as high as possible, ideally in the Green range of 90-100.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP reports the render time of the largest content element visible within the visible area of a web page. This is one of the Core Web Vitals metrics that are used as part of Google’s ranking algorithm so try to ensure that all your pages rank really well for this metric.

Total Blocking Time (TBT)

TBT measures the total amount of time that a page is blocked from responding to user input, such as mouse clicks, screen taps, or keyboard presses. Whilst it is not explicitly one of the Core Web Vitals metrics, in can be used as a proxy for First Input Delay (FID), which is one of the Core Web Vitals metrics but is not measurable via Lighthouse.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS measures the sum total of all individual layout shift scores for every unexpected layout shift that occurs during the entire lifespan of the page. Again it’s one of the Core Web Vitals metrics, so ensure that your pages score really well.

The Lighthouse report also features an Opportunities section that lists out some recommended actions your developers can take to improve page performance. You can even filter these opportunities by the specific metric they will have the most impact on. 

While some factors on your live environment may automatically improve performance vs your stagnant environment, it’s always a good idea to have these metrics looking as healthy as possible before pushing your site live. If you have any concerns about any of these metrics at this stage, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your dev team to ensure that your live site’s performance is not holding back your SEO success.

What’s Next?

Now that you’ve ensured that your site performance is as optimized as possible at this stage, the finish line is in sight! All that remains in your SEO migration plan is a checkup once the site is pushed live.

Check out the other blog posts in this series on SEO for a Website Migration:

  1. Technical SEO Checklist for a Website Migration
  2. Keyword Research and Existing Content Audit for a Website Migration
  3. 301 Redirect Planning and Redirect Mapping for a Website Migration
  4. Crawl Depth and Internal Linking Review (of your UAT site) for a Website Migration
  5. Staging Site Performance Review for a Website Migration
  6. SEO Go Live Checkup for a Website Migration

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