Website speed is now a direct ranking factor for mobile searches. Learn how medical marketers can get ahead of the trend and improve site performance.
On July 9, Google’s rolled out its long-promised Speed Update to all users. Google will now include website speed as a ranking factor, with faster sites often performing better in mobile search results.
For medical marketers, website load time has long been a critical component of optimizing user experience. Google’s data shows that a three-second load time increases bounce rates by 32% when compared to a one-second load time. A five-second load time impacts performance even further, increasing bounce rates by a staggering 90%. From these numbers, it’s clear that speed is essential to mobile users, and now Google is further cementing this fact.
While the metrics for determining a fast-loading website have not be explicitly stated, there are many steps medical marketers to take to determine if their content is performing well. Here’s what healthcare professionals need to know about Google’s Speed Update and how you can optimize your site speed to rank highly in organic search.
How Site Speed Affects Search Rankings
In 2010, Google introduced site speed as a direct ranking factor for desktop searches. Then in January 2018, it announced a new Speed Update that expanded to include mobile site speed as well, albeit in a limited roll out. As of July 9, Google’s Speed Update will now impact all users, although it may affect only “a small percentage of queries.”
These new updates mean that both desktop and mobile site speed are becoming increasingly important factors in determining your website’s search ranking. Bounce rate, which often correlates with load time, can also impact organic search performance. If Google’s algorithms see that visitors quickly leave your website and return to search, the site is considered to be providing a negative user experience. This factors into Google’s rankings, meaning that a slow site with a high bounce rate will likely perform poorly in search results.
Which Pages Are Affected?
In sports, a team is only as good as its worst player, and the same goes for digital content. The Speed Update will only affect the slowest pages on your website, so focus on improving your slowest load times instead of trimming a few milliseconds off your fastest-loading page. While slow pages can still rank well if they have great content, pages that have historically ranked highly may see a drop in traffic if they can’t keep pace with the new algorithm.
If you’re wondering how slow is too slow, Google’s PageSpeed Insights may have the answer: three seconds or more. Medical marketers can use this tool to determine which pages on their website are loading slowing, as well as evaluate how their load times compare to competitors.
Bring Your Website Up to Speed
When assessing your site speed, PageSpeed Insights or Google Analytics can identify areas for improvement. Analytics can help you see which pages are performing poorly as well as discover trends over time.
Once you’ve determined that you need to increase the load time of a particular page, you can start making adjustments. PageSpeed Insights includes its own set of recommendations that you can follow, as does the Accelerated Mobile Pages plugin. AMP simplifies code to help content-rich pages load more quickly without sacrificing their quality.
As you optimize each page for mobile speed, it’s important not to forget that content quality is still one of the ultimate deciding factors in search rankings. Poorly executed pages are likely to perform poorly even if they load quickly, while a great quality page with a slower load time may still rank highly.