Do The #1 Ranking Sites In The World's Hardest Niches Actually Have Good Performance Scores In Google Page Speed Insights?

By Terry Kyle
Chief Dog Lover/Co-Founding CEO, WPX Hosting
Arguably The World’s Fastest WP Host

We are increasingly living in an age where more and more webmasters are concerned/frustrated/obsessed with their ‘Performance Grades’ or scores, especially on Google’s Page Speed Insights tool.

After all, it’s Google right and Google must know what they’re doing…yes?

Even if this is the company that brought you Google Buzz, Google Wave, Orkut, Google Knol and Google Glass:

Google would get this right given how much they’ve been shouting (rightly) about the importance of fast loading websites.

Wouldn’t they?

Well let’s ignore the fact that unlike GTMetrix and Pingdom Tools, this is Google’s own tool and look at a whole bunch of sites ranking at #1 in extremely competitive niches (#1 at the time of writing, rankings fluctuate of course, as do these Google performance scores, by the way) + YouTube.com and see what their Performance Grades are.

2 more quick things to point out here:

[1] Google is now ‘mobile-first‘ in terms of search results so I am only looking at the ‘Mobile Score’ and NOT at Desktop, and,

[2] when I visited all of these sites for the first time (my smartphone browser had not cached the sites, I had never been to them before), they all loaded INSTANTLY, so the sites are fast, regardless of what page loading times, ‘First Contentful Paint’ readings or Performance Grades/Scores say – I have eyes and can see that they load very quickly.

Let’s get to the evidence, shall we and rankings DO fluctuate but these were correct at the time of writing!

Exhibit 1: YouTube.com (loads instantly on mobile)

So the world’s 2nd busiest website, owned by Google, with virtually unlimited resources for site optimization, that loads instantly on mobile, can only score a mediocre 51/100. Google’s ‘field data’ speed rating: ‘Moderate’, and,

“Field Data – over the previous 28-day collection period, field data shows that this page does not pass the Core Web Vitals assessment

Hmmm…

Exhibit 2: #1 Ranking Site For 'Car Insurance' In USA

In the multi-billion dollar US car insurance industry, this allstate.com inner page loads instantly on mobile (check it) and is #1 for ‘car insurance’ BUT could only score 12/100 on this tool. FCP (First Contentful Paint), supposedly a ranking signal, also ‘violates’ Google’s sub 3 second threshold too at 3.5 seconds. 

Exhibit 3: #1 Ranking Site For 'Web Hosting' In USA

‘Web hosting’ is a crazy competitive keyword and the #1 US inner page from pcmag.com scored a pathetic 16/100 on Mobile + FCP WAS under 3 seconds BUT still in the red zone, hence the red color on the 2.6 second time. Like previous sites above including YouTube, this site “did not pass the Core Web Vitals assessment”.

Is a pattern emerging here?

Exhibit 4: #1 Ranking Site For 'Online Casino' In USA

Arguably about the toughest single keyword to rank for where competitors have multi million dollar monthly SEO budgets and here caesarscasino.com scores just 12/100 and a FCP in the red (not great) at 2.6 seconds. Core Web Vitals assessment? Failed.

Exhibit 5: #1 Ranking Site For 'Make Money Online' In USA

Though we can see a more respectable FCP of 1.9 seconds (not green though) for this Forbes article about making money online, its Mobile score is still seemingly mediocre at 36/100. Core Web Vitals assessment? Another fail.

Exhibit 6: #1 Ranking Site For 'Ketogenic Diet' In USA

A good, but still not green, FCP of 2 seconds here but 20/100 is pretty poor for this instantly-loading #1 ranker. You guessed it, another “Core Web Vitals” failure.

And, according to SEMRush, ‘ketogenic diet’ gets over 1.5 million searches a month in the US:

Exhibit 7: #1 Ranking Site For 'Divorce Lawyer' In USA

A still-in-the-red FCP of 1.9 seconds and a Mobile score of 19/100 and yet still a #1 ranking for a killer keyword. Apparently it’s also impossible for massive traffic #1  ranking sites to pass the “Core Web Vitals”assessment.

Exhibit 8: #1 Ranking Site For 'Home Insurance' In USA

Yes it’s allstate.com AGAIN and yes they have a terrible Mobile score AGAIN and are still #1 for a keyword where clicks cost $25+ each on Google (according to SEMRush). FCP is just over the 3 second border but still shown in red. Usual “Core Web Vitals”assessment failure.

Exhibit 9: #1-#2 Ranking Site For 'Dating Sites' In USA

okcupid.com is hovering between #1 and #2 for ‘dating sites’ in the US but is still beating heavyweights like match.com and eharmony.com. 

Not bad. 

And all of that with a ‘woeful’ 24/100 score on Mobile and just over 3 seconds for the FCP. Predictable “Core Web Vitals”assessment failure.

It doesn’t seem like the okcupid.com SEO team are too bothered with their Google Page Speed Insights results.

Exhibit 10: #1 Ranking Site For 'Guitar Lessons' In USA

And finally the instantly-loading guitarlessons.com ranking at #1 for, you guessed it, ‘guitar lessons’ with just a 23/100 Mobile score and a lowish, red-colored FCP of 2.8 seconds + “Core Web Vitals” assessment failure.

Conclusions?

While the above sample set is incredibly tiny, those are very tough keywords to rank for so major kudos to those sites.

And what they lack in high performance grades on Google’s Page Speed Insights tool (in its current form, they are always iterating I imagine), they make up for with brand presence, audience engagement, links, traffic and sustainable business models.

So the obvious question then is: 

Shouldn’t you also be focused on those aspects of business-building and not obsessing over those score numbers?

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