Several weeks ago the SEO community was up in arms. For the last few years Google have been telling us that they want to make using the web a better experience for everyone, and that pages which create a better user experience will rank higher than pages which don’t.
Specifically, that we should ensure our pages are well designed and laid out, load fast, offer an easy-to-use mobile experience, and are secured with SSL (the browser padlock), so that our users’ data is secure.
Dutifully, we have gone ahead and done this. SEO tools have been created to rank our websites on these metrics, and even Google’s own web speed tests warn us that large pages cost users real money and are to be avoided.
In April 2023 Google updated their search ranking systems, and simply ditched all these, saying that page experience et al were no longer a factor in deciding how to rank websites.
Why Have Google Done This?
No-one really knows. Google still say they are important, just they will no longer have a direct result on your ranking.
There’s much cynicism, with many believing that if Google continue to pull the rug out from below SEOs, more people are likely to turn to paid Google ads. With the upcoming changes in AI search, this is even more likely to happen as many websites will lose vast amounts of traffic overnight.
The comments on this page at SEO Round Table make for interesting reading.
What Should I Do?
Simply, nothing. Google may have removed these factors from rankings but they are still crucial to good web development and to converting visitors to our website into patients. Studies have shown over and over that speed is crucial, and 60% of visitors will bounce if the load time is over three seconds. Similarly, few people will continue to a non-SSL website when Google warns them it is not secure and to go back, and no-one has time anymore for websites that are difficult to navigate or which look awful on our mobile phone.
Aside from the importance of these factors on conversion and on simply making it easy for our users, there is an indirect effect on SEO, as Google knows whether the user stayed on your site following their search, or came back to the search page and tried a different option. If users on your site have a particularly high bounce rate, this will cause your site to gradually drop down the rankings (or never make it up in the first place).
What Does Still Work?
Content and authority. Make your website as useful as possible for the user and create as many inbound links and citations as you possibly can. Download our 2023 Physical Therapy SEO Guide or book a Free Web Review if you’d like us to help you see how you can best improve your own SEO.