Optimize Your Site for Google’s Mobile First Indexing

So, it’s official – after hinting a year ago that something big was on the cards, on the 4th November Google finally announced, on their own blog, that they are now testing their new ‘Mobile First Index’, due to roll out across the world wide web in the coming months. So now we pose the questions: What is mobile first indexing? How will it affect us? And what do we need to do to stay ahead of the curve?

As Google quite rightly points out: the desktop computer is no longer the main source of searches for the general public – surfing the web on phones and tablets has overtaken, vastly, and it is time for everyone with a website to catch up or risk taking a big hit on their SEO.

What is Mobile First Indexing?

Until now, Google’s ranking systems have been looking at the desktop version of websites first, before moving on to checking out mobile pages, to evaluate and determine a website’s relevance to the individual user. This has meant that those who hadn’t made the jump into the world of mobile-friendly sites were not being affected in their ranking, despite most of their users actually wanting and needing something that they can view, clearly, on their mobile device.

With Mobile First Indexing, Google is recognizing the importance of having a website that is in the most easy-to-read format for users and given recent stats showing that most internet traffic comes from mobile devices, it is clear that this format has to be responsive.

In short, Mobile First Indexing is a leap towards responsive sites and mobile-friendly sites getting the higher ranking they deserve.

How Will This Affect You?

From now on, prioritising the mobile user is a must, but this doesn’t just mean that you need a mobile site – unfortunately, unless your mobile site is as in-depth as your desktop site, this could actually be detrimental to your ranking.

Many companies have designed their online presence so that they have a desktop site and a mobile site, but in many cases, the mobile site has far less to it in terms of data (think content, links and inaccessible files) – this is bad news, as your mobile site will now be the one that Google’s algorithms primarily use to rank your pages. In a cruel irony, you would actually be better off only having a desktop site with it’s full data (as desktop sites will still be what Google falls back on when a mobile site is not present) than a limited mobile site, although in terms of user experience this would not be ideal. For now, Google states that you are OK with a desktop only website, but with the way things are going, for how long?

In a perfect world, all websites should now be looking at becoming responsive, rather than ‘desktop or mobile friendly’. This way, Google’s Mobile First Indexing will be able to see that your website is suitable for mobile users, whilst still containing all of that precious SEO content and being in a pleasant format for your largest source of traffic.

Find out if your website has a mobile-friendly design with Google’s Mobile Friendly Test

How to Optimize Your Site for Mobile-First Indexing

For now, it seems that the next step is clear – it’s time to take action and ensure that your website is responsive and suitable for mobile use. Here’s what to consider when optimizing your site:

Speed

Both your users and Google have come to expect super-speedy loading times when it comes to viewing websites and having a below average load speed can really damage your SEO and customer views. Developer Programs Tech Lead Maile Ohye, states that “two seconds is the threshold for e-commerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half-second.”, so this is what you need to aim for. Here’s some ways to help you achieve this:

Image Sizing – Having very large images uploaded onto your website is a no-no. Check through yours and ensure that they are smaller and optimized for web.

Browser Caching – Skip your viewers having to download all of your web files every time they visit a page, by having browser caching in place.

Minify Code – Ensure that your code is streamlined by removing all unnecessary characters.

Need help optimizing your site? Take a look at our SEO Packages.

Mobile Design

As mentioned above, a responsive website is the way to go, so make sure that your site is suitable for both desktop and mobile use whilst still containing all of it’s data. You should also ditch the pop-ups and Flash (replace with HTML 5 or Java) and consider your on-page optimization, such as titles and descriptions to help Googlebot understand your page faster and boost your CTR.

Local Optimization

Did you know that according to Google’s Local Search Behavior Research, a whopping 50% of consumers conducting a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day? That’s huge! Make sure that your company is ranking within the local area for higher foot-fall in store. Read more about the importance of local SEO on our recent blog.

Need some help getting your website ready for Google’s Mobile First Indexing? Get in touch!

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