Last week, Google announced a major change to their search engine ranking algorithm that will penalize those website that load most slowly by moving them down in search results.
While it has long been suspected that Google favors websites that load quickly, this is the first public announcement that the search engine giant has made about speed and how it factors into its rankings.
The update is coming in July, so Google is giving webmasters plenty of time to optimize their sites accordingly. But it begs the question: what can be done to mitigate the risk? And is your ophthalmic practice website ready? Are you prepared? How could your organic traffic suffer if you don’t optimize your website appropriately?
In this article, we’ll look at some practical steps you can take to make sure your practice website is well-optimized for SEO.
The Mobile Trend
It’s no secret that Google favors mobile. Over half of all Internet traffic these days comes from a mobile device, and Google announced a few years ago that it will promote those sites that offer a good mobile experience with responsive design.
Their most recent speed announcement follows a growing trend: people want information in a fast and convenient manner.
At the heart of Google’s announcement isn’t a focus on its algorithm, textual adjustments, or code optimizations per se – it’s about user experience. Those websites that are easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, and laid quickly will see the best results.
Google says this update “is about the page performance in general, with the goal of offering mobile users a better overall experience when searching via mobile.”
Google mentioned in its announcement that the update will only affect pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users,” which will only affect a small percentage of queries. The company also notes that “the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”
While this may seem reassuring, it’s still important to make sure your website is up to snuff. For starters, here are a few practical changes you can make:
Run a Google PageSpeed Insights Test
Google’s PageSpeed Insights Test is designed to show webmasters optimizations that can be made to decrease load time and minimize the amount of resources necessary to render a site. For example, compressing images into smaller file sizes can help a page load more quickly, as can making some subtle tweaks to the code of a website, how much space it takes up, etc.
Have a blog? Consider using Accelerated Mobile Pages.
Google introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages a few years back in an attempt to make blog posts, articles from popular news sources, and other forms of easily digestible content faster to load and easier to browse. It’s fairly easy to convert existing blog content to AMP pages when someone is on a mobile device, especially if your practice website is using a popular Content Management System like WordPress (there are tons of plugins that can convert posts to AMP for you). What’s more, those pages with AMP built-in are more likely to be featured in Google’s Rich Snippets and see higher placement in search engine results.
SSL is a method of securing and encrypting website traffic that is an absolute must if you want do do well in Google rankings. Google actively demotes non-secure websites in its rankings, and not having an SSL could cost you big time if sensitive patient information is exposed – it’s a major HIPAA violation. A good SSL certificate costs about $100/year and plays a crucial part in ensuring that all information sent or received via your website is secure. Pardon us for sounding rude, but in 2018, not having a secure practice website is just plain stupid.
So, how does your website stack up?
With Google’s announcement, now is a good time to do a brief assessment of your practice website: is it mobile friendly? Do you have an SSL installed? If you have a blog, are all key technologies (like AMP) being utilized?
If not, your practice may see a significant drop in organic traffic when Google’s update kicks in…or you may have already been suffering from reduced traffic without even knowing it.
Organic traffic is an important part in any practice’s marketing strategy, and if your practice website doesn’t measure up, it may be time for a helping hand.
Contact us today to receive a free audit of your practice website – we’ll show you key areas for improvement and provide tangible steps to take so you can ensure your practice website will be attracting new patients for years to come.