Google has begun testing its Mobile First Index, which essentially means they will begin looking at the mobile version of business’s sites first when determining rankings, and falling back on the desktop version only when a mobile site does not exist. Considering the majority of searches are done on mobile, Google wants their index and search results to reflect that — hence the shift to Mobile First.
While they say this is only an experiment, we think it could possibly indicate a shift towards looking primarily at mobile content when determining rankings in the future.
With that said, it’s probably a good idea to make sure your business is ready for the change in case it becomes permanent. Here are some ways to ensure your company won’t be caught off guard by Mobile First.
Aim for a Loading Speed of Less than 2 Seconds
The faster your website loads, the happier your users will be, and that includes Google.Standard optimized loading speed is generally 2 seconds or less, so if it takes longer than that for your site to load consider making some changes. Don’t include large images as that is a good way to slow down your site, and make sure you’re using the minimum amount of code necessary in order to maintain the site’s functionality. Unnecessary characters also slow down a site. And lastly, avoid a lot of page redirects, and leverage your browser caching.
This topic can be an entire article on its own, so visit the following to read just that:
Make Sure Your Content is the Same from Desktop to Mobile
It doesn’t matter if your desktop site has more content, looks better, and runs more efficiently than your mobile; if a mobile site exists, that’s what Google is going to look at.And unfortunately, you’ll then take a hit for not having enough content on the mobile version. A good way to avoid this is to make sure your content is consistent from your mobile site to the desktop version.
You can also consider including expendable content on your mobile site; things such as accordions, expandable boxes, and content hidden in tabs. While this wasn’t weighted very high on desktop sites, it will be on mobile.
Although it was necessary to do this in the past, it’s no longer relevant as smartphones have evolved enough to be able to handle these elements just fine. In fact, it's necessary to see them in order to categorize them as content, and so hiding them will actually hurt you in the long run.
Googlebot shouldn’t have an issue with any of these on your website, but you can use the robots.txt testing tool just to make sure.This tool checks to make sure your site is accessible to Googlebot. The Fetch and Render Tool in Google Search Console is also a good option to get a preview of how Google Bots will view and index your website, as well as how it will be displayed to mobile users.
Use a Responsive Design
Image credit: developers.google.com
Avoid Flash elements as most users can’t optimally view these on their phones (thanks Apple!). Instead, stick with HTML 5 or Java in order to incorporate those extra elements that make your site stand out. Don’t incorporate a lot of popups (or any) because users will become frustrated and will leave your site, thereby increasing your bounce rate and decreasing your rankings.
Finally, make sure your site has been designed with a user’s finger in mind. People need to be able to scroll, tap, and open pages with ease using their fingers. This article explains how and why a responsive web design is key for SEO.
If You Don’t Already Have a Mobile site, Hold Off Building One
If you’re panicking right now trying to figure out how you’re going to quickly design a mobile site because your business doesn’t have one, stop. If you try to develop a mobile site too quickly, you’re going to hurt yourself in the long run when it’s not executed well.
If you don’t have a mobile site, Google will continue to index your desktop site, and your rankings will be fine... for now. Definitely start planning a mobile version for the future, if anything because most searches are done on mobile and you’re definitely missing out on those conversions.
But don’t panic; you’ve got some time, and it’s better to plan it out and make sure it’s fully functional before launching. Read the following article to get ready:
Consult Google’s Resources
Google has provided several resources to make this transition easier. Their mobile guide explains in depth why it’s important to make your site mobile friendly, and it offers a variety of tips in order to make this possible. Their how-to guide also explains how to create a mobile-friendly site, as well as how to make sure your third party hosting site is functioning well. Definitely take the time to peruse these two documents to make sure your site is optimized to its full potential.
Still not sure how to best optimize your site for mobile? This article explains how to further ensure your site is mobile friendly.
What have you done to make sure your site is ready for Mobile First? Comment in the section below!