As a medical provider managing a local practice in today’s world, your success hinges on where your name falls on Google’s search results rankings.
There’s no way around it: search engines have replaced word-of-mouth and traditional advertising as the number one way to convert prospects into scheduled patients. It’s becoming increasingly clear to healthcare professionals that understanding how your practice interacts with Google is a vital step in standing apart from the competition and booking more appointments.
And while Google offers many tools and products to help you capture public attention, maximizing your ranking on the results page should be the foundation of your practice’s strategy online strategy. Given the nature of how people search for new doctors and the factors that determine whether they book an appointment or not, making sure your name is top of the list alone can do wonders for your business.
And now, Google is planning on updating the way they rank local businesses — so if you want to thrive, you also need to stay informed and adjust to any changes. A delay in responding to these alterations in the algorithm can cost you patients and revenue.
New Criteria for New Rankings
So what are the changes on the horizon?
In June 2021, Core Web Vitals are becoming ranking signals for search results.
It might sound technical, but all that it means is that several new areas of your websites’ performance are going to be measured and taken into account in Google’s ranking algorithm.
Overall the vitals that Google will focus on are specific user experience metrics like how fast does a page load? How interactive is it? How stable is it? Is it built for mobile use?
These categories also feed into a few other metrics — more in the realm of technical page experience — that are part of the new ranking system. These include...
- Mobile Friendliness
- HTTPS Security
- Intrusive Interstitial Guidelines
Overall, these metrics cover more experience-based signals than keyword-based signals that Google has heavily weighted into their previous results ranking.
A Deeper Look at Core Web Vitals
In case you're still unsure what all this means, let's examine the Core Web Vitals that Google will use to inform their rankings. While it all might sound technical, the concepts behind each metric are relatively easy to grasp.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This simply means the time it takes for a page’s content to load. A good rule of thumb is to have an LCP rate of 2.5 seconds. Under the upcoming guidelines, a slower rate can lead to a lower ranking and less conversion, which will result in fewer new patients.
First Input Delay (FID): This measures the time elapsed between the moment a user interacts with a page (for example, when they click a link) to the time when the browser is capable of actually processing that action. An ideal FID is 100 milliseconds or less.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This relates to the total number of frames it takes before a page becomes stable — meaning users can click on an element without it moving around before the page stops loading. CLS measures the total of all individual layout shift scores for every unexpected layout shift during a page's entire lifespan. An ideal CLS score should be around 0.1 or less.
How Will This Impact Your Rankings?
These updates will immediately bring about changes to the standard search results page, and they will also allow sites to appear on Google’s Top Stories section — meaning that Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) will no longer be a requirement.
One thing to take note of is that while any alteration to Google’s algorithm will undoubtedly be impactful, there are hundreds of signals that are factored into the rankings — so there’s no need to expect an immense shift in where your site might rank, but a careful consideration of how best to adjust your site is likely in order.
If your site is lacking in the areas mentioned above, it can very likely lead to a noticeable decrease in interaction. And with 24% of users reporting that poor user experience and interface prompt them to abandon sites immediately, it’s crucial that your page addresses these issues if you want to attract new patients.
Setting Your Site Up for Increasing Website Conversions
It’s important to remember that mastering Core Web Vitals on your site isn’t only about bolstering your Google ranking. Having a great user experience will undoubtedly benefit your practice. In fact, a full 70% of consumers say a site’s loading time affects their purchasing decision. And studies show that even a one-second delay in website function drops conversion rates by an average of 7%.
If you're unsure how to know if your website needs updating given these upcoming changes, Google provides some helpful tools for measuring Core Web Vitals. You can start with a visit to the Google Search Console, where you can run diagnostics for some key page experience metrics. There are also options from Google to Page Speed Insights, a highly effective test to measure performance quality.
For reference, Google provides detail about ideal scores and metrics for Core Web Vitals here.
Of course, if your practice is working with a marketing company like Scorpion, you can also outsource this testing, and the work of implementing changes to make way for Google’s update, to a trusted partner.
If you would like your practice to undergo a free growth audit — including tests on your site’s Core Web Vitals — please feel free to contact us at www.scorpionmedical.com, or call (855) 290-9022 for everything you need to know to set your website up for maximum exposure.