So Google Finally Went Mobile-First…Now What?

As of March 27, 2018, Google officially began the rollout of its mobile-first index. Implementation started small with a few hundred websites. But, as of late April, global rollout has begun, ushering in a new era for search engine functionality and search engine optimization.

To Recap

Historically, Google’s algorithm indexed a full-size desktop website first. But, the mobile-first initiative is acting like an algorithm update and changing the way Google’s “bot” crawls the web. Now, the algorithm will index a mobile website first.

A mobile website may be:

  • Your company website that is built on a responsive framework that automatically scales the display based on user screen size
  • A separate version of your website that users can access by toggling from the desktop version and vice versa
  • A completely separate website

The mobile-first initiative is expected to impact rankings for many websites.

What You Have to Do to Maintain Search Engine Visibility in a Mobile-First World

By prioritizing mobile websites in its indexing, Google (and other search engines to follow) is prioritizing the mobile user experience. And by doing so, mobile-first indexing changes the ranking impact of some known factors. For instance, loading speed, while always important, takes on a new significance in the mobile-first world.

So, to maintain visibility in organic search engine results pages (SERPs), you have to make sure your mobile website*:

  • Loads fast

Site loading speed cannot be underrated in a mobile-first environment. Mobile devices are employed by users-on-the-go who have even less patience than desktop users when it comes to waiting for a website to be completely visible and functional.

Although Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is not the only way to increase site loading speed, it is a data structuring practice that Google has never been shy about favoring. So, AMPing pages may be a strategy worth considering to maintain top SERP ranking (or finally climb ahead of your competitors).

  • Features elements that display well on mobile devices

In addition to optimizing loading speed, you need to consider the user experience when trying to view and/or manipulate certain elements. For instance, even if you optimize images for fast loading and they automatically scale for screen size, is that infographic going to be readable without the users zooming in/out and repositioning it multiple times? Will the user know how to get back to the main page if they click something that directs them to an off-site tool or subdomain?

  • Is intuitive to navigate

User-friendly navigation has always been a ranking factor, but it’s even more important on mobile devices where users do not have a “big picture”—i.e., a full-size menu—to help them visualize the organization of the site.

If you have an ecommerce website, navigation is even more important because you have to make sure your viewers know how to keep moving down the funnel to complete a sale before frustration makes them abandon a cart.

As always, mobile-first indexing will use user behavior, like bounce rate and time on page, to rank mobile assets.

What Clients Have to Do to Maintain Search Engine Visibility in a mobile-first World

Some businesses may be left scrambling to get their websites back on the first page of mobile-first SERPs to maintain visibility. But not clients.

As an industry leader, we’ve known that mobile-first indexing has been coming for quite some time. So, we prepared. We made sure we did all the right stuff to make your website rank well no matter which version is given indexing priority.

Our clients’ websites have already been:

  • Built on a responsive or mobile-friendly framework
  • AMPed for top page-loading speed
  • Designed for easy navigation
  • Designed to eliminate elements that are likely to frustrate mobile users

No panic required.

If you need assistance updating your website for mobile-first performance, contact us to schedule a free consultation.

* Actually, we recommend making sure even websites intended for desktop viewing conform to mobile-first preferences because there is no reason to not to optimize every users’ experience.