lighthouse

Ranking higher in Google search results is a primary goal of many businesses nowadays. As the most popular search engine in the world, the organic traffic a website can receive from ranking on the first page or even number 1 on Google for specific keywords can prove to be quite valuable. Google Lighthouse can help you get there.

In fact, according to a Backlinko study, the click-through rate of the #1 search result on Google is a whopping 31.7%.  The number 10 result on the first page of search results gets roughly one-tenth of that amount, and then those on pages two and beyond are even lower. 

With so many changes to the Google algorithm and an increased focus on the page experience, many organizations wonder how they can improve their site performance and rank higher. Google themselves have provided some assistance with the help of Lighthouse, an open-source tool that sheds some light on how a website performs and offers some suggestions on how to improve the results. 

We spoke to SEO experts for some more details about Google Lighthouse and some advice on interpreting the results you find. 

Related Article: Preparing for Google's Page Experience Update via the Core Web Vitals Report 

What Is Google Lighthouse?

Lighthouse is an automated open-source tool for improving web page quality. Lighthouse performs an audit of your website in four main areas and provides a score to measure performance. Tests are run using a simulated mobile device that is throttled to a fast 3G network and 4x CPU slowdown. 

The main categories of Lighthouse audits include:

  • Performance: Metrics such as first paint and time to interactive are used to determine lag. 
  • Best Practices: Measures several areas, including HTTPS usage and correct image aspect ratios. 
  • SEO: Ensures that your site is discoverable. 
  • Accessibility: Checks for issues that prevent your site from being accessed. 

But what does Lighthouse do, and what is it for?

According to Lorna Franklin, Digital Acquisition Manager at Dublin, Ireland-based Shaw Academy, Google Lighthouse “enables marketers and developers to view individual pages from Google’s perspective in terms of page speed, UX and performance across mobile and desktop.” While it shouldn’t be the only tool in your toolbox, Lighthouse provides an excellent representation of what Google looks for and how you can go about optimizing speed and performance.  

So what do each of these metrics mean, and how can you use them to your advantage?

Performance: While at first glance, the SEO category may seem to be the section with all the answers, Franklin points out that most SEO experts are likely to get answers they’re looking for in the performance category. “This section gives you more nitty-gritty details of the page elements which are causing a lag in page speed, for example; large third party pixels, JavaScript which is blocking page rendering, and large or unused CSS files,” she said. 

Sometimes page speed tools can provide a lot of overwhelming data. However, Lighthouse can help you prioritize which performance issues need to be addressed first. 

Accessibility: Accessibility is a growing concern for many companies, and Google is doing its best to ensure that websites are up to par for the visually impaired. Franklin explains that this might mean “flagging images which are missing alt text, or color contrast which may make it difficult to see certain parts of the page.” Given the importance of the user experience to Google’s Core Web Vitals update, she recommends paying close attention to the issues flagged here. 

Best Practices: The best practices category outlines several areas that you can analyze to improve site safety performance. As Lauri Kinkar, CEO at Tartumaa, Estonia-based Messente, explains, this “focuses on checking if your website or app is served from a secure source.” If anything on your website could lead to a security vulnerability, then the best practices category will reflect those findings in your score. 

SEO: While the performance category will outline many of the key metrics that help boost your SEO ranking, the SEO category ensures that you have the bare minimum requirements. Here Google, “runs tests that ensure that your website can be crawled by search engines and increase its visibility for relevant searches,” added Kinkar. 

Benefits of Google Lighthouse

Lighthouse shouldn’t be the only tool that you use to help improve your ranking, but it can provide some useful insights for developers. “Google Lighthouse is quite useful for when a particular page is acting up. It helps narrow down the root cause of most problems associated with websites,” points out Tomas Heligr-Pyke, web developer at Queensland, Australia-based Zakazukha

Many companies will hope that Lighthouse can help them attain a perfect score. However, while this is very difficult to do, Franklin concludes that it can help tackle major red flags and help you spot low-hanging fruit with opportunities for improvement.>