Google Page Speed: Boosting Your Website Performance to Improve SEO
By Practice Growth July 09, 2020
Today’s websites load at an average of 4.5 seconds. This may not sound all that slow until you compare it to the top 10% of websites that are known to load in less than 2.4 seconds. How fast do you want your pages to load?
In the healthcare industry, the loading speed might be even more important than in other niches. The longer you keep your visitors waiting, the less likely they are to book an appointment. Not to mention what this can do to your online reputation. Think about when Netflix or your internet lags. Nobody likes it.
So, how can you get your practice website to fly?
Fortunately, you don’t have to spend money to find out the speed of your website. Google PageSpeed Insights is free and very easy to understand.
The tool pulls data from your website to analyze its architecture and offer suggestions for optimizing its performance. The scores are categorized under desktop and mobile speeds, followed by the corresponding lists of suggestions.
If your mobile and desktop scores are comparable, for example, this may indicate that the site is already optimized for different screen sizes and devices.
Regardless, you should use the tool to discover the speed of your top competitors. This can be a benchmark for you to work toward or exceed.
Get this right and you can improve your site ranking as well. As you might expect, Google crawlers favor faster-loading pages.
Website Audit and Optimization
With the analysis out of the way, you already have an idea of what to shoot for and improve. However, it’s another story to actually do it. Here are some suggestions that may help you make a start.
Plug-Ins and Extensions
As a rule, if you’re not too familiar with plug-ins and extensions, you’re better off doing without them. Some plug-ins can really slow down your website and you often don’t need more than one either.
This is a common thing with plug-ins that check for broken links and plug-ins with extensive settings menus. But there are other plug-ins like GTmetrix that actually find the culprits that slow down your site.
Furthermore, plug-ins and extensions that collect visitor data can be invaluable if you wish to remain competitive in local searches. You might also want to avoid plug-ins that try to do it all since they rarely deliver across the board.
Bottom-line, you need to identify the background software tool that works for you and remove everything else.
Page Layout and Format
The verdict is still out with regard to the most responsive and fastest page layouts, but there’s one standard that you’d be well-advised to adopt. You want to keep the page’s most important and relevant content above the fold, i.e. in the upper portion of the screen, so as to prevent visitors from having to scroll to find what they’re looking for.
By extension, you should also keep the CTA (Call to Action) above the fold. It’s a sure way to ease user friction and increase bookings. As for the formatting, you have to optimize your content for Google web crawlers and your visitors.
This means the content needs to be clear and concise. All of your headings and subheadings will require H tags that signal to both crawlers and users that the content has a structure that can be skimmed, which often translates to visitor satisfaction.
To reiterate an earlier point, you want to make sure that the layout and format are optimized for mobile devices. According to the data, a good 68% of health-related searches are done on mobile devices nowadays.
If you’d like a trick for speeding up media-rich pages, lazy loading can be like high-octane fuel for your pages.
With lazy loading, images and videos will only load when a user reaches them. And if you care about page speed, you must avoid video pop-ups on your pages, especially those that auto-play. Please DO NOT auto-play videos. Not only do they slow down the page, but they also take away from the user experience and really irritate visitors, i.e. future patients.
In addition, you should also make sure that the images are of the correct size and format. A couple of massive .png images could cost you a second or more.
Also deserving of your attention are browser caching and server response time. This can enable even faster speeds for recurring visitors and less resource-intensive pages. Of course, you’re going to have to get in touch with the hosting provider for this.
It’s critical to understand that website performance endeavors are continuous. For now, you have a basic idea of the steps needed to be among the top 10% fastest websites. If some of these concepts are complicated for you, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s challenging for most business owners. This is getting you into “technical SEO” terrain, so not all SEO specialists will even offer technical SEO services. It’s good to know the lingo and have a basic understanding of the problem before you talk with an SEO or web developer.
Make boosting your website performance and speed one of your quarterly goals.
It will be worth it!