Website Optimization for Mobile-First Indexing
If you have even a passing interest in digital marketing strategy, you have likely come across the term ‘mobile-first indexing’ with increasing regularity over the last couple of years. As a result, the various search engine algorithms, led by Google, have moved to prioritize the mobile user experience over the desktop or laptop – which is historically how most users accessed the internet.
If you have not already done so, you must make sure that your SEO agency takes mobile-first seriously. If not, your site will have incorrect indexing, and your ranking will suffer. Here is our guide to why it matters for search engine optimization and how you can optimize for different devices simultaneously.
What Is Mobile-First Indexing?
When a search engine like Google ranks your website, they do so by indexing the various pages that form it. Classically, completing indexing with a desktop-centric approach – i.e., using the different metrics to classify and index your site measures for the desktop user.
However, as smartphone and tablet technology has become more accessible. Mobile data plans have become more affordable, reliable, and fast, and so has a shift in how most people access the internet. Now, more than half of all internet traffic is mobile, a fact that Google has not let go unnoticed.
For the last couple of years, the search engine behemoth has moved to mobile-first indexing. That means they assess your site for its mobile-friendliness and accessibility before evaluating it for the desktop version. So if you have not got a mobile-friendly site version, you will lose your position in the search engine results.
To put it even more bluntly – if you have a super high-quality desktop version of your website and your mobile version was thrown together as an afterthought, you need to take immediate action. You are being indexed, categorized, and ranked on that sub-standard mobile version of your site.
How Can a Site Be Mobile-Optimized?
Ensure that your site is as accessible as can be for mobile users. There are four key actions that you should take. They are:
1. Responsive Web Design
Responsive design refers to how a site is displayed. Mobile device displays vary in size and length/width ratio, and developing and launching a site that meets the requirements of every display type would be a monumental task. So instead, we have a responsive design – the mobile-optimized site will automatically change certain site elements to best suit the display screen.
From an SEO perspective, it is better to have one site incorporating responsive design rather than a stand-alone desktop version and a responsive mobile one. As a result, this will reduce the possibility of your two sites competing against each other for keywords and both sites suffering.
2. Page Speed
The speed at which your site is accessed, displayed, and becomes interactive (the user can click on links or buttons) is called page speed. Therefore, this has been important for many years now – not only from an algorithm perspective but purely from a user standpoint: the longer your site takes to load, the more likely the visitor will close it and move to the following search result.
Mobile takes this metric and makes it even more critical than ever. A user sitting at their desk may prepare to wait a second or two longer than the average load time. But, unfortunately, a mobile user is not. As a result, for your site to be genuinely mobile-optimized, you need to get the page speed as fast as possible.
Start using Google PageSpeed Insights – a free tool that will show you where problems lie and give you quick fixes. Common suggestions to speed up your load times will be to compress images, reduce redundant code use, remove or limit redirects, and use page caching.
To assess your mobile friendliness, you need to test your web pages. Doing so is very easy – go to the aptly named Google Mobile-Friendly Test and enter your URL. After about a minute, you will receive your results: the page is not mobile-friendly, the page is mobile-friendly, or no data available.
If your page is not mobile-friendly, the tool will also give you some common problems, although, at present, they are not specific to your site. You can then work your way through that list and try to remedy as much as possible before re-running the test (which is free).
Mobile parity is about ensuring that the pages and information accessible to your desktop users are the same as those offered to your mobile visitors (in terms of actual content, not display). A perfect example of this is in your content marketing. For example, if you have published a mixed media-enriched blog, you likely did so with a desktop reader in mind.
The same article on mobile will not look as good with your test interspersed with relevant images (for example). However, you still need to provide access to said blog. If not, Google will not index the page, as the algorithm recognizes the mobile version as the primary site.
Essentially, you want your website to be as good an experience for the user regardless of the type of device they use to access it – that means that everything you publish or the list has to be available cross-device.
If you have used the mobile-friendliness checker and discovered that your site is not as mobile-first as you would like, or you need further advice or help on any aspect of digital marketing and SEO, get in touch with us. Our team comprises experienced and skilled experts from various disciplines, including strategy, design, marketing, and technology. We can help you get where you need to be.