You probably know that having a fast website is super important for SEO, usability, and sales. But let's face it - speeding up your Shopify site can be a real headache.
Many folks get tempted by those budget-friendly offers to boost speed. But watch out! The speed optimization world has its share of scams that might seem good on the surface but don't really do the job.
In this article, we will reveal some common Shopify page speed optimization scams and guide you on detecting and rectifying these deceptive practices. Ready to roll? Let's go!
Overview of page speed
What is page speed?
Page speed, or "load speed," measures how quickly a page shows its content. In the realm of SEO, maintaining a rapid page speed is imperative.
Various factors contribute to a page's loading speed, encompassing the site's server performance, page file size, and image compression.
In today's digital landscape, even the slightest delay in loading time can lead visitors to abandon a website. Recent studies indicate that if your site surpasses a loading time of 400 milliseconds (or 0.4 seconds), users are more inclined to seek alternatives.
Google offers tools for enhancing page speed
PageSpeed Insights, a tool provided by Google, is an online resource designed to pinpoint issues related to web performance, user experience, accessibility, and technical SEO. Its usage is straightforward – simply input the URL, and within seconds, the tool generates a report detailing your website's performance.
While some of the language in the PageSpeed Insights report may be technical, it's not as complex as it might initially appear.
Let's explore the primary sections of the report, focusing on Core Web Vitals, which Google considers key ranking factors:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP assesses loading performance by examining the speed at which the largest piece of page content becomes visible.
You should aim for a Largest Contentful Paint of 2.5 seconds or less for a good user experience.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS is a metric gauging the largest burst of layout shift scores resulting from any unexpected shifts in layout throughout a page's entire existence.
A layout shift transpires whenever a visible element alters its position between consecutive rendered frames.
A burst of layout shifts, termed a session window, happens when one or more individual layout shifts occur rapidly, with less than a 1-second gap between each shift and a maximum duration of 5 seconds for the entire window.
The largest burst corresponds to the session window with the highest cumulative score among all layout shifts within that time frame.
To ensure a positive user experience, websites should aim for a CLS score of 0.1 or lower.
First Input Delay (FID)
For an optimal user experience, websites should aim for a First Input Delay of 100 milliseconds or less.
First Contentful Paint (FCP)
The First Contentful Paint (FCP) measurement assesses the duration from the initiation of page loading to the rendering of any portion of the page's content on the screen.
In this context, "content" encompasses text, images (including background images), <svg> elements, or non-white <canvas> elements.
For an enhanced user experience, websites should target a First Contentful Paint of 1.8 seconds or less.
Why swift page loading is essential
The speed of a website is a critical component of the user experience, particularly for eCommerce platforms, where even a slight delay can result in substantial financial losses. There are 3 compelling reasons why website speed is crucial and optimizing it is imperative.
Ensuring an exceptional user experience
The performance of a website directly influences the user experience, contributing to online sales and overall business success. Failing to meet consumer expectations regarding website loading time can significantly impact business revenue.
According to research by Kissmetrics, 40% of users abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. To provide an impressive user experience, especially for first-time visitors, your website should consistently load quickly every time it is accessed.
Speed impacts conversions
Conversions stand out as the paramount and influential metric for online businesses, and the effectiveness of digital marketing campaigns hinges on enhancements in the website's user experience.
This holds particularly true for eCommerce websites, where a mere one-second delay leads to a substantial 7% reduction in conversion rates.
Numerous studies establish the interconnectedness of website speed with other pivotal metrics. For instance, a recent study by Portent revealed that a B2B site loading in 1 second boasts a conversion rate 3 times higher than a site taking 5 seconds to load.
Page Speed as a Ranking Criterion
Google has clearly emphasized its prioritization of speed across all web products. Matt Cutts, Google's former head of web spam, publicly acknowledged that fast load speed is considered a positive ranking factor by Google.
Consequently, to secure favorable rankings on Google, teams must optimize web pages for faster loading. Improved rankings not only enhance organic traffic but are also crucial for business growth.
Recognizing the profound impact good page speed has on the overall website, store performance, and subsequent sales, many Shopify merchants actively seek Google Page Speed optimization services.
This is accomplished through what we term 'Google Page Speed Hacks.' While the outcomes may seem impressive initially, they are deceptive and could pose potential harm.
Now, let's explore the risks associated with these page speed hack scams before delving into the details of these hacks. It's crucial to understand their implications and then assess your Shopify store speed accordingly.
Risks of Google page speed optimization scams on Shopify
Faking page speed metrics can negatively impact both users and site owners
Falsely inflated site speed metrics may give Shopify store owners a misguided sense of success. If you believe your site is highly optimized when it's not, you might allocate resources ineffectively.
Shopify store owners might invest in unnecessary page speed optimization or neglect genuine areas that require attention. This misallocation can hinder the store's growth and competitiveness in the long run.
Negative user experience
While hacks may temporarily elevate your Shopify store's performance scores on page speed tools, they don't genuinely enhance your site's functionality. This can result in visitors encountering errors or experiencing slow loading speeds, significantly diminishing their overall experience and compromising the quality of interaction with your Shopify store.
Google places a high value on providing users with accurate and trustworthy information. Attempts to deceive algorithms by manipulating site speed metrics may lead to penalties, including lowered search rankings or even exclusion from search results.
Shopify policy violations
Shopify may take action against stores employing deceptive tactics that violate its policies.
Shopify is committed to maintaining a fair and transparent marketplace. Stores engaging in deceptive practices could face warnings, restrictions, or, in severe cases, suspension from the platform.
Shopify page speed optimization scams
1. Utilizing the YETT Library for script blocking
YETT is like a handy tool for web pages that helps you manage the running of external scripts, such as analytics. You just put YETT at the beginning of your webpage's code, and it lets you stop or delay other scripts from running.
Some individuals are employing the YETT library to prevent script execution. In certain instances, they choose to block all scripts for Linux users. This creates the appearance of a faster site speed on Shopify since, during Google's site crawl, there is no need to load any scripts.
While we can't share the entire code due to its potential harm, we will provide snippets for you to review your themes:
How to detect the cheating:
- Go to the 'Actions' button on the right side of your theme and select 'Edit code.' In your theme.liquid file, search for YETT_BLACKLIST.
- If you're not tech-savvy and uncertain about fixing the code, a safe method is to click ‘Current’ in the ‘Recent changes’ section and revert to the latest version without a script for YETT_BLACKLIST before your site speed optimization on Shopify.
You can also explore how other stores fix the code to resolve this issue.
🧑💻 We highly recommend seeking an evaluation from experts if you suspect any irregularities. This ensures they can assist in identifying and resolving any existing cheat codes or issues affecting the entire site.
2. Creating a false impression of good First Contentful Paint
Look for this code:
The code is attempting to manipulate the measurement of the First Contentful Paint (FCP) by using an image element with specific attributes and styles. Here's how this code could fake a good FCP:
- Invisible Image: The code includes an image element (<img>) with the attribute alt="someimgname". However, the width and height of the image are set to large values (99999), making it practically invisible on the screen. The image may not be visible, but it's still part of the page's content.
- Positioning and Styling: The image is styled with CSS using the style attribute. It is set to have no pointer events (pointer-events: none;), which means it won't respond to user interactions.
Additionally, the image is positioned absolutely at the top-left corner of the page (position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0;), and its dimensions are adjusted to take up a significant portion of the viewport.
- Max Width and Height: To prevent the image from becoming too large, there are maximum width and height constraints set using max-width and max-height.
The intention behind this code is to include a large, invisible image that covers most of the viewport without being noticeable to the user.
As a result, the browser may register the content as "painted" or loaded, potentially influencing the FCP metric.
It's important to note that such practices can be considered deceptive and may not accurately reflect the user's actual experience with the webpage. Search engines and performance measurement tools may also evolve to detect and handle such attempts to manipulate performance metrics.
How to detect the cheating:
- First, follow the previously mentioned steps to navigate to the theme.liquid file.
- Search for instances of <img width="99999" height="99999">.
- Next, revert to the latest clean version before your page speed optimization on Shopify.
3. Using code to cheat Lab Data
Firstly, lab data involves calculations based on a predefined set of rules, considering factors like location and browser settings, creating a controlled testing environment.
Lighthouse is commonly used for these calculations, applicable to both Google PageSpeed and GTMetrix. The purpose of lab data tests is to ensure consistent and replicable measurements from one test to another.
A prevalent deceptive method involves presenting a different version of a website to Google's PageSpeed Insight tool. This often results in the tool receiving a blank page or a significantly limited version. Consequently, the tool may generate a high PageSpeed Score, sometimes close to a perfect 100 out of 100.
However, this deceptive strategy does not improve the actual user experience on the website. Users still face the same slow-loading site, and Google can easily identify such attempts to manipulate scores. In essence, this form of code cheating offers no benefits in terms of usability, sales, or search engine optimization (SEO).
How to detect the cheating:
First, assess your Lab data using Google PageSpeed Insights to verify whether it has genuinely improved compared to the state before your page speed optimization on Shopify. If not, your store might fall into the category of lab data cheating.
Certain Shopify stores have experienced a type of code manipulation when individuals hired for page speed optimization use document.write to manipulate the PageSpeed score. Unfortunately, this manipulation doesn't result in significant improvements in your Shopify store speed, which is detrimental to SEO.
To check for this code manipulation, inspect your theme.liquid file, search for the following script, and promptly remove it if detected:
Source: Shopify Community
4. Block the slow countries
Another Shopify page speed optimization scam involves blocking visitors from countries where your website might have slower loading speeds. Even if your website is speedy in one country, it might perform poorly in others due to various factors like setup and hosting.
Some believe excluding slower countries can improve the overall Shopify website speed and result in a better PageSpeed Score based on field data. However, in practice, this approach is unlikely to have any positive effects and may even harm your site, especially if you exclude visitors from countries where you have potential visits and sales.
Even if your website doesn't generate sales in the excluded countries, it doesn't enhance speed for other users. Consequently, it offers no positive impact on usability, sales, or SEO.
How to detect the cheating:
Determining whether those who performed speed optimization on your Shopify website employed this technique can be somewhat challenging.
One approach is to test by using a VPN connection, accessing your website from various countries to see if it remains accessible.
If you discover that your Shopify store is involved in this deceptive practice, you can navigate to your theme.liquid file and search for the following code. As it's not advisable to share the entire code, here's a snippet for your reference:
Upon identification of the code, either remove it or revert to the latest clean version.
In the realm of online business, a swift website is a necessity. However, the pursuit of speed can lead to deceptive traps in the Google Page Speed optimization domain. The promise of quick fixes often conceals scams that offer a mere illusion of improvement.
Our journey through this landscape has revealed the diverse tactics scammers employ, from faking metrics to manipulating lab data. Falling victim to these schemes poses risks to user experience, Google penalties, and Shopify policy violations.
Armed with knowledge, you can protect your store. Understand common hacks, detect deceptive practices, and rectify them within your website's code.
Remember, your Shopify store's success hinges on genuine efforts. By providing a seamless experience for your visitors, you're not just optimizing for Shopify site speed – you're optimizing for lasting success. Happy optimizing!