The Jetpack Photon Module: Page Speed Comparison

We recently tested the page speed of WP Engine’s CDN, but now let’s take a look at Jetpack’s Photon module. I’ll be comparing my personal blog (hosted on GoDaddy’s managed WordPress hostingwith and without the Photon module activated.

Note: It’s important to point out that Jetpack Photon is not a true CDN. Photon only works on 1) images… 2) that are in posts & pages (including featured images). It does not affect other assets (CSS, javascript, images in your theme, page content, etc.). More on how Photon works »

Jetpack Photon Page Speed Test

I’ll run the test on this page of my personal blog, as it contains 17 individual photos, plus an additional photo gallery. I’ll test from two different server locations (New York & Texas).

Because Photon only works with the images inside of pages/posts, it wouldn’t be a valid test to compare total load time. Here’s what the load times looked like. I highlighted a few oddballs that stood out.

Jetpack Photon load times before & after

Valid Testing Metrics

Not only do we need to isolate the load time of images only, but specifically those images that are served up via Photon. Photon uses WordPress’ cloud, which hosts images on i0.wp.com, i1.wp.com, i2.wp.com, etc.

Pingdom also gives us a page load breakdown by domain. We’ll isolate analternate.com & wp.com to get some workable data.

I took one test from before Photon (2.80s), and one test from after Photon (2.86s). Let’s look at the breakdown by domain.

Page Load Percentage Without Jetpack Photon

Before Photon, time spent per domain

 

Page Load Percentage With Jetpack Photon

Enable Jetpack Photon

First, be sure you have the Jetpack plugin installed.

Then, navigate to your Jetpack page, and click Activate next to “Photon.” That’s it. No settings to configure. It just works.

I refreshed the page to make sure the 17 images were now being served up by WordPress.com’s cloud, as opposed to GoDaddy’s server.

Test Results

After Photon, time spent per domain

Breakdown Results

  • Before Photon, the total load time was 7.5% slower. This would imply that Photon loaded the images faster than our GoDaddy server.
  • If we subtract the time of analternateroute.com assets loading from before to after, we get 31%. Because the only change we made was enabling Photon, we can assume this 31% came from images inside the post.
  • Compare this to the increased percentage on wp.com (23.5%), and it appears that wp.com (Photon) served up the images faster than analternateroute.com (GoDaddy’s server) did.

Is Jetpack Photon worth it?

For sites with very few images inside of posts, probably not.

For sites with at least 5 images inside of some posts/pages, I’d say yes. A 7.5% difference in image loading time is fairly significant. And that percentage would likely increase on a page with even more images (or really large file sizes).

 

What is your experience with Jetpack Photon? Has it decreased the load time of your pages?

23 Commentson "The Jetpack Photon Module: Page Speed Comparison"

  1. /

    There are issues with this test, and obviously with jetpack too the way it implements photon.

    1. the first time load is slow, so when testing, test on subsequent loads

    2. jetpack by default don’t use same cdn subdomain for each image and each load, rather it choses from i0, i1 and i2

    So calling each domain causes another ping and thus delayed load time.

    P.S I can custom code the task which photon does for your blog if you want, let me know through my email with this comment.

    → Reply
  2. /

    Thanks for the concise review, man. Helped me make a decision on using Photon.

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    1. (Author) /

      You’re welcome, Thad. I appreciate the feedback. As this test was about a year ago, I’d love to know (if you decided to use Photon), if your experience is any different.

  3. /

    Hi,
    I have been toying with the idea of using say Cloudflare over Photon. I currently use Photon, but my site still suffers alot from page load time issues. Webpagetest.org and Pagespeedinsights seem to show conflicting results. I already use Wordfence, Autoptimize. Stopped using wp-super cache as wordfence does that too. But our page speed insights are horrendous. Not sure what to to next.

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    1. (Author) /

      Ross — If you’re comfortable sharing your website, I’d be happy to take a look at your page speed results and provide suggestions. I’m not too familiar with the CDN portion of CloudFlare’s services, but again, if you provide your website, I’ll look into it and see if I can help decrease your page weight.

    2. (Author) /

      Ross, I just sent you an email with some suggestions. Let me know how it goes.

  4. /

    Hey there!

    Great article Dave, thanks. I too am struggling pretty heavily from page load issues on my WP site, and was specifically looking for Photon benchmarks/reviews.

    Going to give photon a try. I saw Ross (above) mentioned Autoptimize, so might check that out too. Do you have any other tips? We’d be enormously grateful! Our website is http://www.boolerang.co.uk.

    Thanks!

    Ed

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    1. (Author) /

      Hey Ed. Thanks for stopping by.

      In your case, I’m not sure Photon is going to help much. You don’t have many images on your site, and the ones you do have, aren’t very large.

      Your issue seems to be more surrounding the quantity of CSS and Javascript files your site is loading. I think concatenating as many of them as possible would help your cause. As well as using “async” on any non-essential javascript files.

      I sent you an email with more thoughts and suggestions. Please do let me know how it goes.

  5. /

    Photon will affect Image SEO badly. Tried it. Don’t use if you are concern about SEO.

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    1. (Author) /

      arslion — Thanks for chiming in here. I’m wondering if you could be a little more specific on HOW this affected your SEO in a negative way. I’d love to hear about your experience.

      Are you mainly referring to image search results, since you lose any domain/sub-domain authority by hosting your images on i0.wp.com, i1.wp.com, etc.?

    2. /

      Same here (otakugame.fr). Google image don’t like “wp.com” images, none of them are well referenced… So I was losing visits from Google Image…

      I only use Photo for my Gallery images from now ^^ To have a good SEO on images with CDN, you need to have your own subdomain – ie images.otakugame.fr :) !

    3. (Author) /

      Thanks for the info, SuzuKube.

      I have recently switched to using KeyCDN for all of my images (and assets, as well). They have an excellent WordPress plugin, and their own dashboard interface has tons of options. They have 25 servers located all over the world, and it’s easy to setup your own sub-domain on their platform.

    1. (Author) /

      Hi Holger —

      I do still use it on my personal blog, analternateroute.com. But to be honest, I haven’t looked at, or really cared much, about the load times of that site, as it gets very little traffic, and I don’t update it much.

      Because of some of the comments about losing traffic from Google Image searches because of how Photon serves up images from a wp.com domain, I would probably not recommend using it.

      For the sites I care about, I use and recommend KeyCDN. They make it easy to setup a custom sub-domain, offer a free SSL to serve all assets securely, have tons of server locations all over the world, and some pretty in-depth options in their control panel. And their price is very competitive.

      That is an affiliate link, but I 100% stand by their service. KeyCDN is what I’m currently using here on WP Smackdown, and it’s been working great for about a year now.

  6. /

    Dave,

    You very generously offered to look over the sites of previous commenters. Can I ask you to take a look at http://www.TheProfitChain.com, and let me know if you think Jetpack or KeyCDN (or some other add-ons) would speed page load?

    I am currently using WP SuperCache.

    Thanks,

    Alex

    → Reply
    1. (Author) /

      Hi Alex – Thanks for reaching out. I just sent you a reply via email. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

  7. /

    please can you help me on how to increase my site load time, you can send me an email please i will be very greatful, i can`t find your contact info..

    → Reply
    1. (Author) /

      Hey — I just sent you an email.

  8. /

    Hello Dave,
    I want to run a 500-2000 subsites on a single multisite installation and it is a community of image driven catalog and auto portfolio sites.
    Im looking to reduce cost, bandwith usage(because some of this images will be shared around) and enhance speed by using Photon for the images. Do you think this is good or what do you suggest?

    → Reply
    1. (Author) /

      Hi Maximus — First of all, that sounds like quite a project. Best of luck getting it all up and running.

      I can’t say this for sure, but I don’t think Photon is the best service for what you’re trying to do. I think it was developed more for smaller, simple, single-site WordPress installs.

      I would feel way more comfortable with a CDN like KeyCDN. It’s what I personally use here on WP Smackdown. They are incredibly affordable, have over 30 server locations to serve up your images, and offer free SSLs. I would recommend using them as your main CDN provider.

      Then I’d also setup Cloudflare for some additional bandwidth savings, as well as fast DNS and some added security.

      For an image-heavy site, it will definitely be worth investing in an image optimization plugin. I’d recommend Imagify, but WP Smush Pro is another option. Imagify is probably the less expensive option, unless you’re uploading TONS of photos. This will save you a ton of storage space and bandwidth.

      And finally, with a 500+ site multisite setup, you’ll want to make sure you use a quality hosting provider. You’ve probably seen deals for SiteGround, GoDaddy, Blue Host, HostGator and the like for super-cheap. For your project, I’d stay away from those. You’ll just end up with performance issues.

      And while WP Engine offers more powerful plans, and has some solid reviews out there, I used them for over 3 years and was never highly impressed. It was always hit-or-miss with their support team. For what you’re looking to do, I think you want to go with a host with very knowledgeable, dependable support. I’d recommend Kinsta. You can start with their lowest plan and move up as your traffic increases.

      I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any additional questions.

  9. /

    Thank you Dave. You dealt with my question thoroughly. I will implement your recommendations.

    → Reply
  10. /

    Helpful article thank you. Can anyone confirm that using JetPack to serve images means Google won’t index them and therefore won’t display the images in a Google Photo search?

    If this is the case I’ll be turning it off :(

    → Reply
    1. (Author) /

      Hi Andrew — I wish I had a definitive answer for you, but unfortunately I don’t.

      I found a fairly recent article that cites some examples, but there are people questioning it in the comments. Also, the author says all his images are indexed in Google, and provides a link to verify it. The image search returns a bunch of images from his domain, however, when you view the source of his page, you’ll see that he’s NOT using Jetpack/Photon. I searched his source and there are no references to jetpack, photon, i0.wp.com, i1.wp.com or i2.wp.com.

      That could mean he recently changed things, and it was working before. Or it could mean that he’s never been using Photon, but maybe he thought he was. Not sure.

      He did say he reached out to Jetpack support and they confirmed that they use a rel=”canonical” tag to point to the original image on your server, so you might want to try their support. I’ve talked with them before and they’ve been very responsive.

      Alternatively, you could try KeyCDN. It’s under $50/yr (for most sites, unless you’re HUGE), and it’s fast and super-easy to set up. I am an affiliate for them, but I wholeheartedly stand by their product, and have set several clients up with them, too. And it’s easy to set up a sub-domain (cdn.yoursite.com), so that you completely own your images, and if you switch to a different CDN later, you can continue to use the sub-domain via a CNAME record so your images stay at the same domain.

      I’m currently using KeyCDN on this site for all my static assets :-)

      Let me know how it goes and what you decide!

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