Google has officially announced that Core Web Vitals will become a factor in keyword rankings for all websites, included physician and healthcare sites. This change will go into effect in May 2021.
Here’s what we know about Google Core Web Vitals and what it will mean to physician websites.
This is a somewhat long and technical post. However, this is mission-critical for physician SEO. If you want to jump ahead to the conclusion, click here.
What Are Google Core Web Vitals?
Specifically, Core Web Vitals contain three elements:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP is the time it takes for the main content of a webpage to load. This is content that is referred to as “above the fold.” So when you visit the homepage of a site, it’s that main section you see first.
Ideally, this load time should be faster than 2.5 seconds.
First Input Delay (FID)
FID is the measurement of time for how quickly a webpage can become interactive (i.e., you can click around). This is important because it can be a major frustration point for users who are trying to click or tap on the site, and nothing happens.
We’ve all experienced this annoyance on a website at some time, and Google is now going to factor that into keyword rankings. They don’t want to recommend a site that provides a poor patient experience.
Ideally, you want the First Input Delay to happen in less than 100ms.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS has to do with the amount of layout shifting that is unexpected relative to the web page’s visual content. In other words, it’s visual stability.
Have you ever been on a site where you went to click or tap on a link and the page “jumps around”? As I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s incredibly annoying. Like FID issues, this too is frustrating for patients.
The CLS should be less than 0.1.
Core Web Vitals Will Combine With Other Ranking Signals
Google wants a complete picture of the overall page experience a patient will have on your site. So they will be combining Core Web Vitals with additional ranking signals, including:
You definitely want and need to have HTTPS enabled for your website as it ensures your website’s connection is secure.
Fortunately, most hosting companies, including my favorite WP Engine, provide SSL certificates that are easy to add and are included in the hosting price.
The requirement for having your personal physician website be mobile friendly is nothing new. Since more people now access websites on their mobile devices, Google uses how your site appears on mobile as a major ranking factor.
If your website doesn’t appear correctly on mobile, you’ll want to make the investment to redesign this quickly.
Google will check and assess whether or not your site has major issues such as hacked content, malware, or phishing activities. This just ensures they’re not sending patients to websites that are compromised.
This is a technical way of saying your site shouldn’t have overly intrusive content that obstructs the users from seeing the content. Think of constant popups or ads that block the screen.
This typically isn’t a problem for physician websites, but still something to keep in mind.
Why Updating Your Website for Google Core Web Vitals Is Mission-Critical
Very rarely does Google give an advanced warning when they are going to change their search algorithms, let alone tell us precisely what they’re going to look for.
The last time this happened was in 2015 when they went to mobile-first indexing, which was aptly named “mobilegeddon.”
The fact that Google is communicating this change, and with ample advanced warning, indicates the seriousness of the coming change.
Physicians who act now are going to have a major rankings advantage and opportunity over other physicians and even healthcare systems who don’t adjust.
This very well may be the biggest opportunity to capture competitive keyword rankings that we’ve seen.
Updating your physician website to focus on addressing the patient page experience as defined above, needs to be your priority for SEO.