GTmetrix has been one of the leading names in page speed metrics since it was introduced 15 years ago. It’s been one of my go-to scanners for quick info for audits and reports – honestly used it daily.

It analyzes several different aspects of your web page’s performance, including loading time, page size, page requests, and more. Then, after taking in all of that data it gives you a score accompanied by tips for improvements. Site loading speed is a huge factor for converting traffic and SEO success.

The team behind GTmetrix announced some important changes back in November announced changes that left many, including myself, looking for alternatives. GTmetrix still offers its most basic package for free, but now testing is limited to encourage users to pay for a new subscription. For those who can afford it or don’t need to use it that frequently, GTmetrix remains a valuable tool - but it’s going to cost you. So let’s talk about GTmetrix, how its paid model is going to work, and a few alternatives you might want to look into.

The GTmetrix ERA: How and Why We Used It

Since it was first released in 2009, GTmetrix has helped millions of website owners around the world. As websites continued to evolve, it became important to optimize their functionality so that the users - meaning, all of us - have the best possible experience on a website. GTmetrix was designed to help with that very kind of optimization. The speed analysis testing tool quickly went from obscurity to becoming one of the most used free tools on the web.

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By 2014, they were already testing 70,000 different websites every day, and they only continued to grow. In 2022 alone, GTmetrix was used on 11 million different pages, including many of my client's websites. You read that right - GTmetrix tested 11 million pages in 1 year.

One of the features that helped GTmetrix become a tech-household name is Waterfall Charts, which gives a detailed analysis of your entire website’s loading behavior, helping you pinpoint exactly what is slowing down your website. Users love(d) it, it worked efficiently, and it was free!

Unfortunately, though, some free things must come to an end.

Transitioning to a Paid Service

It couldn’t last forever, could it? After 13 years of a reliably free service, last year they announced that GTmetrix would be limiting its free package and introducing a new Micro plan along with the other available Pro options. There has almost always been a paid form of GTmetrix. PRO has existed since 2012, releasing just 3 years after GTmetrix itself.

However, in 2023 they announced they’d be limiting free testing, requiring a login, and encouraging users that needed more testing to move to its subscription plans. Don’t worry, the world has not come to an end just yet. The Basic plan still offers 5 On-Demand tests, 1 Week of Data Retention, and API credits. Not too bad for monthly limits, but for users with more than a single basic webpage or store you’re likely going to hit that limit pretty quickly.

Thankfully, the Micro plan starts at just $5 a month, which is a smart business plan for GTmetrix. This isn’t the first time you’ve seen a free service turned into a paid subscription almost overnight. It happens all the time with tech companies, and even in other industries. When companies have large investors or backing, they introduce a product or service that they can afford to give away with the expectation they’ll profit of it in the future.

GTmetrix has probably been operating at a loss for those 14 years between 2009 and 2023, but now the shareholders or executives decided to flip the monetization switch, which has left users looking for alternatives.

The Top Alternatives to GTmetrix

Pagespeed

I’ve talked about Pagespeed before on this blog, it’s Google’s free analysis tool which has a surprising amount of features on its dashboard. Even for API testing and Waterfall Charts, Pagespeed provides its data for free. If you’re looking for basic but comprehensive page speed results for web and mobile, give Pagespeed a look.

  • Free Testing: Yes
  • Cost: Free
  • Use Limits: 400 queries a minute, 25,000 a day
  • Cons: Occasionally inconsistent scoring and point system

WebPageTest

This is my personal favorite choice on the list. It has a surprising number of features, even some that GTmetrix doesn’t have, and has its own Waterfall Chart. You can access cross-browser testing, different global locations, and even get data about web page visuals and how to make improvements.

  • Free Testing: Yes
  • Cost: Free (300 a month) $18.75 per month (1000 per month) & higher
  • Use Limits: 300 a month for free, 1,000 per month for $18.75 monthly plan
  • Cons: Queue system could leave you waiting hours for your test

Pingdom

While it’s focused mostly on paid models, Pingdom does offer a free website speed test for users to use. It gives a performance grade based on requests, load time, and page size while offering details suggestions on how you can improve performance. 

  • Free Testing: Yes
  • Cost: The lowest tier starts at $15 per month & higher
  • Use Limits: Once a minute, 525,600 per year
  • Cons: Features are expensive, and the dashboard may be over-simplified

DebugBear

Like Pingdom, DebugBear also offers a free speed test you can use on your website along with a paid subscription model. It won’t be as insightful as Pagespeed Insights, but you can quickly get several performance metrics that the others don’t feature and with just a click, you can generate your own Waterfall Chart too. When you conduct one of their free tests, your speed index and CPU time will be provided with other basic metrics and, of course, improvement recommendations.

  • Free Testing: Yes
  • Cost: The lowest tier starts at $99 per month & higher
  • Use Limits: $99 tier (4,000) $199 tier (10,000)
  • Cons: One of the most expensive plans, several expensive add-on features