My Quest For Better Mobile Speed; Things I Can’t Figure Out

I know I said 4 weeks ago that I was done working on increasing the mobile speed of my websites. Actually, what I said was I was done for a long while… I’m thinking 3 weeks is a long enough “while” so I’m coming back to the fold to talk about it once more.

SprinterJockey via Compfight

The thing is, there are some issues that I just can’t solve, and all my research isn’t answering any of it. I’ll own up to seeing a lot of solutions here and there, but I have to add that none of them either make any sense or don’t work.

One other thing that’s happened, at least for one of my regular websites, is having pages that are slower than other pages when the content is literally the same, and the page speed error messages are the same as well. Why does one page pass the test when the other doesn’t?

All this and more follow, but I want to mention the two reasons I’m putting this one together. The first is to show other people who might be fighting these issues that they’re not alone. The second is hoping that someone with some “real” knowledge will pop in and explain what some of these things are and how we might actually be able to fix them.

1. Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content

This one is at the top for my regular websites. For both sites, the issue is the CSS file, since I figured out how to correct javascript. There doesn’t seem to be a way to defer CSS files loading, and supposedly what this means is that we should put most of the code we have in a CSS file into the actual pages.

That’s fine, except… that’s the reason we’re using CSS in the first place, so that if there’s a change we want to make to affect all pages at once we only have to put it in one stupid file! All the research I did said to first try to minify the file (which means clean is up; there are lots of pages that offer links that will do it for you) but even after doing that it didn’t change my speed any. The second recommendation was to leave it alone and just thumb your nose at Google. Since I can’t find a better fix to this issue that’s exactly what I’m doing… but it’s unsatisfactory.

2. Leverage browser caching

This one recommends setting what’s called expiry dates to certain types of files, where the intention is to tell the browser of your visitor whether it needs to actually download those files to the browser again if you’ve already visited the site within a certain period of time. The site I linked to actually gives you the code to add to your .htaccess file, which I mentioned in the last page speed post, only… it doesn’t work!

I’ve tried changing some of the numbers. I’ve tried converting some of the numbers to the number of seconds those numbers represent (which was another recommendation). For whatever reason it’s just ignoring that code, and in all the research I’ve done I have yet to find even one person who might have an idea of why it doesn’t work… and lots of other people who have said it doesn’t work for them either.

3. Reduce server response time

Need this to calm down lol

In essence, this one is blaming the host you’re using for your websites. The recommendation is to track it to see what’s going on and then… fix it. FIX IT?!?!? How do we do that? I actually called my hosting company and eventually hung up because they had no idea what I was talking about.

I could blame the hosting company but my research has shown that no one else has any real idea how to do it either except to change hosting companies. Let’s be real here; why the heck would most of us want to keep jumping around to hosting companies just to see if this possibly works?

4. Prioritize visible content

This is the strangest one. What it tells you is that you have issues with your HTML that it supposedly can’t render completely the first time around that’s above the fold. This one is problematic for two reasons.

The first is that, at least for me, the two things it’s telling me it’s having a problem with is my main image and some Google Adsense code. On the first, I’ve reduced the image and don’t have any actual HTML around the image, so I’m not sure what to do about that, especially since the entire code is actually way above the fold since it’s at the top of the page.

The second is that, even based on all the research I’ve done, they really don’t tell you what above the fold means in this particular context. For instance, on the page speed screen it shows you what you believe is the above the fold area. Yet, all the research says that’s not quite the above the fold Google’s talking about, and the only way to figure it out is to go step by step, testing each little change.

Not only do I NOT know who has the time to do all of that, but on one of my sites I totally eliminated the HTML for the content, going totally with CSS content. Unless CSS is now also HTML, Google’s gone bonkers! lol

One last thing. For my medical billing site, I actually removed both the image and the two places where I have the Google Adsense code just to see how much my speed would improve… and it didn’t improve! What the hey? I also took a different page, saved it as something else on my computer, and copied just the content of the page that’s dragging into it; eureka, it worked! That is, until I changed the Title of the page to what it should be and the title on the page for what it was supposed to represent… all broke once more; sigh…

5. Size tap targets appropriately

This is another one that’s kind of goofy. What this supposedly means is that things you want people to click on, whether it’s a menu item or links to other pages within your content, are too close for mobile users to get to easily enough.

On my main business page it’s telling me that the menu items are too close to each other. Unfortunately there’s little I can do about that because the menu was created for me 13 years ago by my friend Kelvin, and I rarely dig into javascript code to make changes because I don’t know the ins and outs of it (although I did go into it to make a menu correction; I was proud of myself when it worked).

On my medical billing site, the content it’s telling me is too close to each other is, once again, within the Google Adsense code. I mean… really?!?!? What the heck am I supposed to do with that? By Google’s own terms of service you’re not allowed to mess with their code, and one would assume that if they’re going to report on themselves that they’d fix themselves while they were at it. Then again, why expect common sense from Google when Warner Brothers has reported their own site for stealing their content? Sheesh! lol

Those are the top 5 things I haven’t been able to figure out. I’ve actually figured out almost everything else, which is how I achieved the speeds I did. One last thing though; I want to reiterate that, though those error messages above keep popping up, they don’t seem to affect all my pages the same… even though the structure of all the pages is the same. I think I need a computer Sherlock Holmes to figure it out… or maybe someone out there much smarter than me who’ll see this post and stop by to help. We can only hope… πŸ˜‰

15 thoughts on “My Quest For Better Mobile Speed; Things I Can’t Figure Out”

  1. You seem to be awfully worried about what a bot thinks. I’m more concerned with human readers. Your site loads very quickly from my perspective; I’ve never noticed a problem with it.

    I don’t even know what this means: “Not only do I NOT know who has the time to do all of that, but on one of my sites I totally eliminated the HTML for the content, going totally with CSS content. Unless CSS is now also HTML, Google’s gone bonkers! lol”

    CSS stands for “Cascading Style Sheet” and that’s all it is – what o you mean you eliminated all the HTML and went with only CSS? They work TOGETHER. So I don’t get it.

    Above the fold is a newspaper term, but you know what it means. Sometimes, elements “above the fold” are slow to load, and the order in which you’re TRYING to load them slows loading of other elements. You may want to put the slow stuff at the bottom. Or load the scripts that are needed to render things nearer the top, so that they are read first and render first and don’t leave weird X’s and such. But again, I’ve never known this to be a problem on your blog.

    You say my site’s slow to load, but that’s according to a speed test site (therefore, a bot). Do YOU notice an annoyingly long load time? Or is it fast enough it doesn’t bother you as a reader? That’s ALL I care about.

    1. You poor, poor woman! lol You haven’t read all of the posts, thus by only reading this one you missed all the magic of the other 3 posts. lol

      I know what CSS is; I even told people what it was in one of the posts. I said that I’d created my regular websites with HTML tables because it kept everything in place, which is how we created them in the past. Turns out all that coding slows websites down on mobile, so I went and recoded all of them so that all that remained was CSS except for a couple of very tiny tables, definitely below the fold, that the speed tests forgave me on.

      Here’s the deal kiddo. You talked about how there seems to be fewer people interacting with blogs, but Google specifically told us that, first, we were going to be listed lower if our websites/blogs weren’t user friendly, and now at the beginning of the year they’re saying if our mobile speed isn’t up to snuff we’re going to be ranked lower. You missed in the previous articles how I mentioned that my traffic on all my blogs and websites all started tanking around the same time, and the only constant for all of that was having terrible mobile speed.

      Now, if all you care about is how your website/blog looks to you when you look at it, that’s cool. If you don’t mind the consistent loss of traffic (aren’t you running that Alexa bar?) then that’s fine. I normally don’t care about Google and their wishes but in this case it not only makes sense, but it seems other search engines are about to follow along by the beginning of 2017.

      We either keep up or get left behind Kiddo! lol

  2. OK, “Kiddo,” you do you. But here’s the thing: I’m chasing real readers. It’s not that I don’t care about Google, but for my name I outrank everybody. For my first children’s book title, I outrank a German COMPANY that happens to have the same name (okay, I’m now the third result because they apparently sort of kind of figured out something about SEO – but I’m still THIRD – result, not page!) I miss the engagement – the interaction between human beings, not “have my bot phone your bot and they’ll do lunch” that automation passes for.

    My Alexa rank (after a good month of completely ignoring my blog) is now very, very close to yours – except that my regional stat is for the US, not India. My MOZ stats are lower, still, but MR is higher. πŸ™‚ But what’s Alexa got to do with it? They only count visits from users who have the toolbar installed, anyway, and I don’t think they have a toolbar for smartphones, so that’s kind of irrelevant to the whole “mobile theme” issue.

    Google Analytics still thinks I’m dead, but only because I didn’t notice that a theme update had overwritten the tracking code and it wasn’t even recording for about four months. That’s kind of tragic, given my bounce rate was <3%, and now appears to be around 89%. That hurt. A little.

    No, I want proof of life from READERS, not Googlebots. Don't get me wrong – I love Google and all – but Google's never left me a single comment, despite having read every post I've ever written. I cater to humans, not machines. (But just for you, I did reinstall JetPack and their mobile transformation thingy. I'd forgotten that I was using THAT feature.)

    Thanks for the video shout-out, earlier. You know what you've done now, and I'm not happy about it – but I am very happy for the backlink and the mention. πŸ™‚

    1. You do know that sometimes when you say things like above I start wondering if you know how all of this is supposed to work, right? lol

      If people are searching for your name because they know you & that’s all the traffic you’re looking for then it’s all good. Then again, your blog posts most of the time are stories, so your audience is looking for something different than my audience might be looking for.

      I’m fighting the world for attention. I’m not close to being the most famous Mitch Mitchell on the internet (though the other guy is deceased, he’s still crushing me) so no one’s going to find me for that. Once I finally noticed my traffic was dropping in August I realized that, unless I searched for my blog titles within quotation marks none of them were showing up in the top 100, even when I knew some of those were subjects that a lot of people were searching for.

      Since I started doing this work and some back end things a lot of those previous articles are finally starting to appear, which is now giving me a chance to compete; that’s not even close to what I’m looking for. I have bigger dreams than that, but it all starts with my being able to legitimately market myself on search engines, and if it has to come with a lot of blood, sweat and tears (okay, none of that happened lol) then I was ready to put in the work and research to get it done. After all, what you’re calling Google bots I’m calling free referral traffic; I’ll take free any day of the week! πŸ™‚

      No problem on the video; you returned the favor. πŸ˜›

  3. We may disagree on how it’s SUPPOSED to work. I concede that you have an understanding of how it DOES work; I simply don’t care – I want it to work the way it OUGHT to work.

    Anyway… it’s working fine, but could be better. It could always be better.

    Reminds me of a time, some years ago, when brainstorming with a group, “What words do you associate with ‘quality’?” I threw out “flawless.” Some people looked at me funny and told me I wasn’t realistic. I don’t care – I answered the question. Perhaps they asked the wrong question, but that didn’t invalidate my answer.

    Or, as my manager and I realized today while I was ordering lunch: I’m not high maintenance, I just have high expectations. It baffles me when they’re not met.

    1. Flawless; I like that! I’m totally with you on how it “should” work, and there are things I know I do that fights the system the way folks are setting it up to work these days so that’s on me. Still, I knew it was time to do something, and truthfully, for my regular websites, I’ve known I should have made some changes to them for a few years now, so all Google did was force me to do it now.

  4. Mitch, have you ever run the Google insights tool in a row without actually changing anything? I have and a lot of the times I get different results. Go figure.

    I’ve also noticed that no matter what I do my mobile speed is usually slower than the desktop, even though it has less issues? For some reason Google must be putting the mobile side of it through more rigorous tests. I suppose that’s because they believe mobile speed to be that much important than desktop speed.

    Some of the stuff that I couldn’t fix I simply got rid of whatever was causing it. Like there was some Facebook, Google+ and twitter issues. I narrowed it down to the Commentluv plugin and I simply untucked a few boxes and issue resolved.

    What really pisses ,me off is when some of the problems are caused by Google themselves! You’d think they would factor that in wouldn’t you? Or do they wasn’t everyone to remove adsense? πŸ˜‰

    1. Pete, the Google issues are the strangest because it’s their own stupid code! lol As for the others, I think the issue with mobile is that there are so many different sizes of phones and not all of them render the same as opposed to desktops, so their standards are higher. I seem to have the opposite issue many times though, where desktop is slower and it makes absolutely no sense.

      As for running the test multiple times I’ve done that, but once again my results are different than yours in that the scores stay the same… if I use the same testing site. Sometimes I get different results based on which testing site I use, but both are from Google; go figure! lol

    1. Yeah, the reply button is gone because it was a part of the Threaded Comments plugin I’ve been using for years that suddenly wasn’t compatible with PHP 7.0. I might try to find another plugin to do that (the other plugin has never been updated) but by getting rid of it my site actually got a minor boost in speed. lol

  5. Isn’t that now part of the WordPress Core Mitch? I haven’t used a ‘reply’ plugins for ages. I think you’ll find it in the settings/discussion part of your dashboard.

    1. It might be. It didn’t work with this theme so I had to add a plugin years ago and I’m not sure if it works for my other blogs. Maybe with the WP updates it’ll work; let me test…

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