When Google first started experimenting with Mobile-First Indexing in 2016, we all knew it would be a game changer. Although given the statistics, that over half of all traffic is direct from mobile and tablet devices, it’s not surprising that’s it’s here and here to stay. Still, it felt like the world was not ready. In a nut-shell, Google’s Mobile-First Indexing means instead of indexing the desktop versions of your site to evaluate and rank pages based on relevance, Google does it for your mobile site first.
Nowadays, having a mobile site can’t be an afterthought. It shouldn’t be just another addition to appeal to Google. Mobile sites are becoming the cornerstone of content consumption and buying. Mobile searches lead to purchase decisions and increased buying intent.
In Google’s own words:
“Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”
But why isn’t this change simply called “mobile indexing” instead? Because Google isn’t switching over to only mobile indexing. It’s simply “mobile-first” indexing. Meaning you shouldn’t be considering scrapping or slacking on your desktop version of your site.
How to tell if you’re mobile ready for Google’s Mobile-First Indexing
There are numerous websites out there that can test the mobile friendliness of your website. Google’s own mobile friendly test tool is a great place to start. Simple insert your website URL and it will let you know if you pass the test.
Mobile-Responsive vs. Mobile-Friendly
Two of the most common solutions people use for mobile websites are mobile-responsive and mobile-friendly sites. While they are generally similar, they have major differences that can negatively impact your SEO in the mobile-first index.
Mobile-responsive sites (or dynamic servings sites) have their primary content, including text, images, video, and any page elements, syncing dynamically between the desktop and mobile site. Google prefers responsive web design, as it allows the server to always send the same HTML code to all devices.
On the other hand, mobile-friendly sites are where you commonly see issues related to the user experience. Mobile-friendly sites allow your content to dynamically change when seen on a mobile browser. But that doesn’t mean your content is responsive. It simply means you won’t see a desktop version of the site on mobile. Instead, you’ll see a functional mobile site, but page elements will still likely be impacted.
The problem? It doesn’t work in today’s world of competing smartphones and tablets because devices come in different sizes with different aspect ratios which means mobile-friendly isn’t going to cut it. However, if your site is mobile-responsive, you are in the clear. You don’t have to do any extra work as your content dynamically updates on mobile.
But if you’re still using a mobile-friendly design, you will need to update content accordingly to score high with mobile-first indexing.
Mobile sites will run the world
Mobile traffic isn’t the wave of the future. It’s already here, and it’s here to stay.
It is estimated that 79 percent of global internet traffic will be mobile by the end of 2018. Mobile is critical in today’s world and the key takeaway from Google’s mobile-first announcements is that mobile sites are a necessity and should begin to be treated with importance from business owners. Making your mobile site stronger than ever before is key to getting ahead of the game.
According to a 2017 report on mobile benchmarks from Google, the majority of sites in every industry are three times slower than the best practice of three seconds. This is likely because the average mobile page in any given industry is multiple megabytes. The best practice is 500KB. With each added second on your mobile page speed, you can expect big increases in bounce rates. Speed can directly impact your bounce rate and one of the biggest culprits slowing down your mobile sites is likely large images that haven’t been optimised for web.
According to another mobile page speed report, fewer images on a mobile page result in more conversions. While you shouldn’t eliminate all images, it’s worth noting that the more images you place, the heavier your site will become and the slower it will run.
If your mobile site isn’t responsive, fast, and ready to roll, your rankings will suffer greatly. Get your mobile site up to date with your desktop content and ensure that you always update your mobile site accordingly. While you may not see effects for a while, it’s always better to be ahead of the curve than struggling to catch up. If you’re unsure if your website is up to scratch, utilise our FREE website assessment reporting tool to assess the areas of your website you need to improve. If you’re not sure where to start, contact us today and we can chat to you about your options to help you rank better and see increased traffic to a mobile-first index friendly website.