As of 2017, mobile phones accounted for just over half of all web traffic globally. This year, the figure has increased to 52.2% of all web pages served, and the trend is only likely to continue. With more than 88% of all Australians owning a smartphone, you can understand why there’s been a monumental shift from desktop to mobile use.
In line with the spike in mobile phone usage, Google has introduced a new Mobile-First Indexing which will determine your SEO rankings. The way it will work is by crawling the mobile version of your site (if you don’t have one, then it will crawl your desktop version) and then it will rank you accordingly.
Therefore, it’s paramount that your website is mobile-responsive, otherwise, this could reflect in your SEO rankings. The good news is that if your website is already mobile-friendly, you have nothing to worry about.
When will your website be moved to Mobile-First Indexing?
Many sites have been moved into Mobile-First Indexing since Google launched the initiative in March 2018, with the remainder to be transferred on an ongoing basis. John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, says on Twitter, “we do this on a per-site basis, and we notify you for the properties verified in Search Console. This is generally more of a neutral thing, but shifting over means your site is seen as mostly equivalent on desktop & mobile, which is great.”
This is the notification that is being sent in Google Search Console to confirm if your website has been transferred.
How will your SEO rankings be affected?
As Google explained in a tweet in June this year, “The mobile-first index doesn’t change anything for ranking other than that the mobile content is used. While mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor on mobile, being in the mobile-first index is not.”
What this means is that you don’t have to worry about your rankings tanking overnight as soon as you get the notification. Similarly, you should also not expect a vast increase even if your site is already mobile-friendly.
Therefore, it’s about developing and implementing a long-term strategy that includes some structural changes to your site and the way you present information, which will help you tick more boxes in regards to rankings factors when your website is crawled.
In saying that, if you don’t make any changes to ensure your site is mobile-friendly, or make changes that lead to confusion between the desktop and mobile version of your site, then it could be possible that your rankings are negatively affected.
To see how mobile-friendly your website site is, you can use Google’s dedicated online tool: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
How to make your website mobile-friendly?
The number one priority is to make your website mobile-responsive, which means it will adjust its format and sizing based on the device the user is opening it on. This way, the user will see the site in the best possible format to easily consume the information (both visual and written). See the example below:
What it also means is that all the content you have on the desktop version of your website will also show on the mobile version. This is critical, as Google will reward you for consistency across both versions.
Here are some other great ways to make your website mobile-friendly:
Increase your page-load speed:
Just like waiting in line at a coffee shop or a retail outlet, people will get frustrated if they have to wait for your page to load. It’s suggested that 57% of visitors will abandon a page that takes 3 seconds or more to load. Not only that, but Google will also use it as a determining rankings factor when comparing you to a site with a higher load speed.
That’s why it’s crucial that you optimise your website in a number of areas to increase your page load speed. Ways in which you can do this include:
- Minimise your re-directs
- Reduce the size of your images
- Reduce the time to first byte
- Reduce the number of plugins
- Enable browser caching
- Continue to monitor your speed across both desktop and mobile
Google states to “make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of your site.” Although Google says that they should be “equivalent”, meaning they could be slightly different, we suggest that all title tags and meta descriptions should be the same on both versions of your site. If you optimise for one, you should similarly optimise for the other as well.
Optimise your content:
Firstly, as mentioned above, it’s important that the content you show on the desktop version of your site is also shown on the mobile version. But before you just roll it all over, it’s also crucial to factor in how much content is displayed and whether or not it is easy for users to navigate your site. For example, you don’t want them scrolling through countless paragraphs of text before reaching your contact form.
What you should do is always preview your content on both desktop and mobile devices to see what it looks like. If you think there’s too much text, instead of deleting it altogether, it would instead be better to see which areas can be summarised in fewer words, or better yet, keep all of your text but display it in an accordion or ‘read more’ format that gives more control to the user.
Get your tech right:
We won’t bore you with the strenuous details of all the technical elements of Mobile-First indexing. But what we will say, is that there’s a lot to it. From checking hreflang links to verifying your robots.txt directives, there’s an abundance of best-practises to follow. And although the points above that refer to the on page elements will go a long way to ensuring your site is mobile-friendly, Google will equally judge you on the off page elements of your site as well. This is something you probably won’t be able to achieve internally, unless you have a dedicated resource, which is why it’s important to partner with a digital agency that will be able to handle all the technicalities for you.
As you can see, Mobile-First Indexing is a huge transition that requires strategic thinking to ensure you can leverage the new changes as best as you can.
Not sure how mobile-first indexing will fully affect your business, or want help to optimise your digital marketing for both the desktop and mobile versions of your website? Get in touch with our Digital Strategists today!