Content Outreach

What the Mobile-First Index Means for Your Website in 2018

As browsing habits have changed, we’ve seen a huge increase in mobile search. Today, we don’t have to load the laptop or boot up the desktop to make a purchase, check train times or read the news; rather, we can do it all from our mobile device.

Recognising this shift in search behavior, Google has since rolled out its Mobile-First Index. In this blog post, you can find out more about mobile first and what it means for your business:

What Is The Mobile-first Index?

Historically, Google’s ranking systems typically looked at the desktop version of a website’s content to evaluate its relevance to the users, and used this to inform rankings. However, with the Mobile-First Index, Google now primarily uses the mobile version of a site to rank a website.

Simply put, by making sure that your mobile site is performing at its best for usability, speed and overall user experience, you can make the most of the Mobile-First Index for optimum search visibility, and ultimately, sales.

Despite the prominence of mobile search, some websites are still not mobile-friendly. As such, your site visibility and ultimately online performance could be suffering.

Is My Site At Risk?

Run your URL through the Mobile Usability Tool to find out more about how Google’s Mobile-First Index affects you.

Desktop-only Mobile Configuration, Separate Mobile Subdomains & M-dot URLs

If your website has a desktop-only mobile configuration, you should make the shift to a mobile-responsive website. If you have a separate mobile version of your site hosted on a subdomain, it’s likely that you do not have mobile-equivalent pages to desktop – maintaining both a mobile version and a desktop version is resource intensive, and can often lead to different structures and page content.

In 2017, a Deepcrawl study on the top 1 million websites discovered some interesting statistics on why separate mobile sites should be migrated:

  • 21% of separate mobile sites had no canonical to desktop equivalents
  • 18% of mobile sites had canonicals pointing to the wrong page
  • Only 8% of dedicated mobile website have matching title and meta descriptions

….and this is the top 1 million websites! In 2019, we’d like to think that the majority of these websites have since addressed these issues!

Recognising that m-dot URLs could also be at risk of being affected by the change, Google published a blog post on how to move m-dots over to a responsive website. We recommend using this handy primer to familiarise yourself with the process and understand how migration could benefit your brand.

What Is Mobilegeddon

In short, no. Google used its position as king of the web to force webmasters to become more mobile-friendly, but ultimately, it’s about improving user experience and keeping up with how most people now use online search.

If your site could still do with some work to become more mobile responsive, we’ve created a comprehensive checklist to support you in optimising your website for mobile:

1. Mobile And Desktop Equivalent Pages

Whether you have a responsive website, mobile version or dynamic configuration, you need to ensure that you have equivalent pages on desktop and mobile. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Meta information (title tags and meta descriptions)
  • Internal linking
  • Body content
  • Headings tags (H1, H2, H3 etc.)
  • Structured data

If your mobile version hides content behind tabs, accordions and expandable boxes, don’t panic! Google has made it clear that the content is given full weight if used for user experience purposes.

2. Mobile Page Speed

With user expectations of mobile page speed growing, Google now considers page speed as a factor in mobile search rankings. This was the first major page speed update in years, and with the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project picking up speed (pun very much intended), we can only assume Google will continue to prioritise page speed going forward.

To check your mobile page speed, Google has a handy tool at https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/, which includes both an optimisation score and speed score. The former provides a score out of 100 based on performance best practices, and the latter incorporates data from the Chrome User Experience Report to show real world performance data about a page.

If your site scores below average, this indicates that there is some work to do to get your website fully optimised. The page speed update only affects pages that deliver the slowest experience, so it will only impact a small volume of queries. However, we recommend that you aim to get your website as optimised for mobile as possible. Aside from benefitting your rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs), page speed has been shown to correlate with lower bounce rates, high user engagement and increased conversion rates.

Page Speed

3. Mobile Usability

You need a mobile website that is as user-friendly as possible in order to capture customer attention and leave a positive experience in their mind.

But how do you define mobile usability? Fortunately, Google provides a mobile usability report inside Google Search Console, so you can check whether you have any issues. Some of the more common issues are:

  • Flash usage – Google can’t render this legacy technology, so they won’t be able to see your content. Migrating to more modern technologies will improve this
  • Viewport not configured – Your page size should be relative to the user’s screen size
  • Small font size – Use font sizes large enough, so users don’t need to zoom in to read your content
  • Touch elements too close – clickable elements should be far enough apart that a user doesn’t select the wrong option, as this can be frustrating and off-putting for them

Mobile Friendly Test

It may feel like there are a multitude of changes for you to make to your site, and that the potential impact on your organic search visibility and sales could be dire. However, there’s no need to panic.

Our team of Search experts can help you make a success of mobile search, including optimum mobile usability, user experience and performance. Get in touch with us today and find out how we can help you to cement your brand and accelerate your sales in the mobile age.

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