Google’s Going Mobile First – What Does it Mean for You?

We don’t need to rehash the general importance of mobile. The overwhelming majority of brands are now acutely aware of the very real need to ensure their digital experiences cater to customers on desktops, tablets and mobiles alike.

Of course, not everyone executes mobile particularly well and there’s a notable amount of room for improvement on even some of the biggest brand web offerings. But we’re seeing things getting gradually better for users regardless of device.

We’ve seen a lot of developments from Google in particular, designed to push publishers and brands into better mobile experiences. The promise that certain mobile signals will be taken into account in mobile results and tools to help optimise sites for smartphone devices are amongst many of the moves the search giant has made.

But perhaps the most recent is the biggest yet. Google’s latest announcement is probably no surprise to many in digital marketing or web design. But it is significant. At the beginning of the month, Google announced that it would be adopting mobile first indexing. The significant part:

“To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we’re going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.”

What that means is that, regardless of the device that users are searching from, the results they see will be based on factors and signals from the mobile version of their websites.

In other words, how your website performs on mobile will affect how it ranks on desktop too.

Let’s take a look at what that means for you:

You don’t have a mobile site – Is this the Apocalypse?

No. It isn’t. If you read the wording of the Google announcement, it’s clear that this is still in very early testing stage. It’s not happening now and could indeed be very many months away. So while you really do need to get a move on with going mobile effectively, you have time.

You’re already responsive – Are you going to do well out of this?

Google’s advice is that you shouldn’t have to do anything if you’re already responsive. But do bear in mind that you’re up against other websites in search. So if you have a responsive website that’s just as good as your nearest competitors’ in search, things might not change a great deal for you really.

But even if you do have a mobile website, it’s a good time to take steps to make sure it really is a good as it can be.

I have a mobile site but it’s not responsive – what do I need to do?

This really depends on the specific configuration of your website. If you’re not showing all your content on mobile or you’re doing things like redirecting users from internal desktop pages to a mobile friendly homepage, then you’re going to need to look at that. Read Google’s announcement in depth as a starting point. There’s some solid advice in it.

Usability Improvements

We spoke to Richard Bannister at Degree 53 about what you can do to improve your mobile experience from a usability perspective ahead of mobile first indexing. His advice:

“Google ultimately wants users to have a great experience. So while you certainly should be taking SEO advice, let’s not forget about the users here. Good User Experience (UX) is vital not just to how your site appears in search, but also to getting your website visitors to convert.

The first thing to look at is site speed. Is your code clean and efficient? Are your images compressed? This is a good starting point. Slow and laggy websites are poor for users.

And then you should ensure that user’s intentions match the content on your page. What’s the next step? Is it clear?

Finally, consider user testing. Have you ever simply observed your target audience using your site? This can be an incredibly revealing process that will help you to improve things for your target audience.”

Advice for everyone

Regardless of your current mobile setup, make sure you have all versions of your site claimed in Google Search Console so you can clearly see if Google is having trouble with your website.

It’s also worth taking steps to just assess your site as a user would from various different devices and identifying any issues.

Possibly the best advice is to remain calm, regardless of your current mobile situation and not to overlook other factors like link acquisition from an SEO point of view.

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