Five things you should know about Google’s ‘mobile first’ indexing

For a while now, everyone on the web has understood the important role that mobile optimised, mobile first and mobile responsive website design plays in achieving good SEO page rankings. Google has recently taken things a step further and officially introduced mobile first indexing, which means Google’s search results will be calculated using the mobile version of websites rather than the desktop version.

What are the implications for your website? Read on and discover the first five things you should do to ensure your site maintains or even improves its ranking with the new mobile first indexing.

1.    Find out if you have a mobile responsive or mobile optimised website

This sounds obvious, but there is a difference between a mobile responsive site, mobile optimised site and a mobile first site.

  • Mobile Optimised – A website that is mobile optimised is specifically designed to work on a small screen and often contains smaller file sizes for images, a single column layout. It’s a different website to your desktop website rather than just your desktop website squashed into your mobile phone or tablet.
  • Mobile Responsive – This is Google’s preferred method of making websites that work on multiple devices. Responsive design automatically scales to meet the format and structure of whichever device you are using. Using responsive design principles in the website design process ensures your website will not only look good but perform well across mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop and even wide-screen monitors
  • Mobile First – In this instance, mobile first refers to websites that have had the mobile version designed before anything else. It’s a design strategy that can also apply to products created specifically for mobile users. Instagram is probably one of the best known examples of mobile first design.

Understanding which of these three web design options you website uses is the key to knowing how to maximise SEO. Google has stated that they prefer responsive websites because the primary content of the site is the same across the desktop and the mobile site. If you have a mobile site that contains different content, you might need to make some updates or changes to your mobile site.

If you don’t have any of these mobile website options, don’t panic – Google has said they will continue to index desktop websites. However, the ‘mobile first’ indexing will be determining which sites look and perform better on a mobile device, so mobile optimised and responsive design websites will get better rankings

The best way to find out how Google looks at and compares your desktop and mobile content is to use Google’s own Structured Data Testing Tool or simply ask us to have a look at it for you.

2.    Understand that content is king

Google is all about the user and what the user wants is content. Google is looking at how content is displayed on mobile devices. Check that your content is easily readable and searchable on your mobile site.

The Google Mobile Friendly Test is an easy way of checking how your content works on mobile platforms.

3.    Don’t panic, you can make some simple changes

If you have a mobile-responsive website, you don’t need to do a thing. If you have a site configuration where the primary content and coding is different on your mobile and desktop, you should check that you have verified the mobile version of your site in Google’s Search Console. If it’s only your desktop website that is verified, Google will assume you don’t have a mobile site.

Developers take note: A good, fully functioning, regularly updated full-size desktop website is better than an incomplete, poorly designed mobile site.

4.    It’s being rolled out right now

The time to start prioritising mobile is now. Most searches are being conducted on mobile, most content is being consumed and shared on mobile and Google has stated on their official blog page that they have already begun ‘experimenting’ to make Google’s index mobile first:

“We’ll continue to carefully experiment over the coming months on a small scale and we’ll ramp up this change when we’re confident that we have great user experience.”

5. Know what works for your business

How do you evaluate your website’s success? Does your business rely heavily on search results? Is most of your website traffic via mobile devices? With all the buzz generated by any change Google makes to its search algorithm or anything else, it’s easy to forget that the most important aspect of web design is its relevance to your customers. This is a guiding principle that underpins each website that iFactory designs and develops.

At iFactory, our digital specialists understand every aspect of website design, web support and the digital strategies that will drive customers to your business. For more information about our award-winning work, contact us.

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