How to prepare your website for Google’s mobile-first indexing?

By | Date posted: | Last updated: September 21, 2020
Google Mobile First Indexing

Google posted on the webmaster blog more tips on how to prepare for the mobile-first index. Google confirmed that it had launched the mobile-first index and said the research team is monitoring all sites “closely” for testing purposes.

Mobile traffic has in fact, as almost everyone knows, already be greater than desktop traffic. Today more than half of all traffic comes from smartphones and tablets. And it’s no secret that Google places a strong emphasis on mobile devices. Mobile is fundamental in today’s world, especially in information research. But having a mobile site doesn’t mean being safe from potential problems.

Nowadays, having a mobile site cannot be considered one of the things to do, but it must be done. Above all it must not be done just to try to position itself in the attention of Google, but for customers.

Mobile sites are becoming the cornerstone of content consumption and purchase. Mobile searches lead to purchase decisions and increased purchase intent. Is your site ready for Google’s new mobile indexing system? Otherwise, you risk both sales and traffic.

Here’s how to find out and make sure you avoid potential placement issues.

Google Mobile-First explained (What is mobile-first really?)

When most people first heard about the mobile first index, it felt like it was disaster. Among all the confusion that has been made, the true meaning of this move to Google’s mobile has been lost. It will fundamentally change the way we optimize and create content today and in the coming years.

So, what exactly is Mobile First?

Here is a short and digestible definition:

Instead of indexing the desktop versions of a particular site to rate and rank its pages based on relevance, Google will go for your mobile site no longer for the Desktop version.

Well, according to Google (and countless other studies), mobile traffic has overtaken desktop traffic. The entire business and foundation of Google is based on a simple principle: to provide the user with information as quickly and precisely as possible. This means perfectly optimized images, page load speeds, and text that you can read without straining your eyes. Google wants to deliver content quickly and effectively. To meet this demand, Google can’t just index desktop sites, when most of the traffic arrives on mobile devices.

But why is this move not just called “mobile indexing”?

Why Google isn’t moving to mobile indexing alone. It is simply “mobile-first” indexing. This means that you don’t have to scrap or slow down the desktop version of your site. The mobile-first indexing shift is critical for most businesses that have a web presence:

You can no longer put your mobile site on the back burner. Indeed, it must become a focal point of your optimization strategy if you want to continue receiving organic visits.

Thankfully, not everyone has to do a lot of work to make this change happen. In fact, by now you may already be perfectly fine without a single change to your existing configuration.

But depending on the current architecture of the site, it is also possible that you are far behind.

How to find your website ready for mobile?

Now you know how important mobile is, especially with the launch of mobile-first. But how do you know if your site is ready for Google’s Mobile First? It strongly depends on the current configuration of your versions, desktop and mobile.

Mobile-Responsive vs. Mobile-Friendly

Two of the most common solutions that people use to make websites mobile are responsive mobile sites and mobile optimized ones. While generally similar, they have wide differences in the mobile-first index which can negatively affect your SEO. The responsive sites for mobile devices (or dynamic sites) have their main content, including text, images, videos and any element on the page, dynamically synchronized between desktop and mobile site.

Responsive sites virtually eliminate the most common problems of a mobile user experience: Pinch, zoom, squint to see tiny text and all the other annoying functions that you have probably encountered hundreds if not thousands of times when you use your phone to navigate.

You know, when the image you were looking at a moment ago you can’t even find it when you turn the phone horizontally? This is a sign that a website is not responsive.

On the other hand, sites that are optimized for mobile or Mobile Friendly are the very ones where user experience issues generally occur. Mobile-optimized or Mobile Friendly sites allow content to change dynamically when viewed on a mobile browser. But that doesn’t mean your content is perfectly adaptive. It simply means that you won’t see a desktop version of the site on mobile devices. You will then see a working mobile site, but the elements on the page could still give display problems if not verified.

Sites optimized for mobile devices or Mobile Friendly, allow your content to change dynamically when viewed on a mobile browser. But that is not to say that the content is responsive. It simply means that you won’t see a desktop version of the site on mobile devices. Instead, you’ll see a working mobile site, but the elements on the page will still likely be affected.

The problem? It doesn’t work in today’s world where so many smartphones and tablets compete with each other. The devices are available in many sizes with different proportions.

The differences between Responsive and Mobile Friendly

Responsive site

A responsive website is a site that responds (or changes) based on the needs of users and the device (mobile device in this example) on which they view it. The text and images change position from a three-column layout to a single column display. Unnecessary images are hidden so they don’t interfere or compete with the most important information on a smaller display.

If you are on a computer, by reducing the size of your browser window from the full screen to very tiny you can tell whether a site is responsive. If the appearance of the text, images and menu changes as you decrease, the site is responsive.

Main features of responsive websites:

  • Dynamic content that changes
  • Navigation is condensed
  • Optimized images
  • Correct justification and spacing
  • It behaves differently based on the operating system it finds

Site optimized for mobile devices (Mobile Friendly)

A mobile optimized website is designed to work the same on all devices. Features such as drop-down menus are limited, as they can be difficult to use on mobile devices. And no animation is used. The website is literally the same across the board, with no usability issues no matter what device it is viewed on.

Main features of mobile-friendly:

  • Static content that does not change
  • Simplified navigation
  • The images appear smaller
  • It doesn’t rely on a mobile operating system to function properly

Mobile-friendly

According to Google, if your site is mobile-responsive, you are in pole position. Congratulations! You don’t have to do any extra work (other than maintaining a great site), as your content dynamically updates perfectly on mobile devices.

However, if you’re still using a design that has subsequently been optimized for mobile, you’ll need to update your content accordingly to score high with mobile indexing.

Separate mobile sites

Another rather common method of displaying mobile content is separating the desktop and mobile sites into two separate entities. While it sounds like a good idea, it won’t be easy to manage as mobile devices come first over desktop ones. Because, you will need to monitor multiple websites as if they were single separate sites.

Instead of writing a new blog post or updating an old site for your desktop site and being able to display it perfectly on mobile, the content, images, and page elements on your mobile site would need to be reformatted.

It is not only the content that is affected, but also the structured data and metadata that must be updated without interfering with the duplicate content rules.

And the complications then go beyond your content itself. Structured data and metadata also need to be updated without interfering with duplicate content rules. So ultimately, we do not say that it is a bad idea (indeed it could be an opportunity) but that it will cost you more in terms of money and time to manage it.

This means more work for less reward.

If you currently have a mobile site that runs separate from the desktop version and are not planning on making the switch to a responsive site, make sure you have added the mobile version of your site to Google Search Console and pay particular attention to server configurations.

Make your mobile site stronger than ever

The first piece of advice Google announced regarding mobile devices is that mobile sites are an absolute necessity and should receive better care from website owners. They can no longer be put in a corner. They aren’t just a tool for businesses that rely on paid traffic to generate leads and sales. Making your mobile site stronger than ever is the key to staying in the game.

According to a 2019 report on Google’s mobile benchmarks, most sites in each industry are 3 times slower to load, then Google’s indicated speed of under three seconds. The web page size best practice indicated by Google is 500 KB. For every second added to your mobile page speed, you can expect big bounce rate increases.

Speed can directly affect bounce rate. And one of the biggest culprits slowing down your mobile sites are probably large, uncompressed images. Fewer images on a mobile page result in more conversions according to another mobile page speed report.

While you don’t have to delete all the images, it’s worth noting that the more images you insert, the heavier your site will be and the slower it will load.

Try using the Google Test tool to see which specific areas of your mobile site need work: It will check your website behaviour. Test My Site scans for hundreds of different factors, including:

  • Compression, HTML / CSS and JavaScript
  • Mobile usability: viewport configuration,
  • sizing of objects
  • readability of the text

Compare your site to your industry benchmarks

Once the report is generated, you can instantly see how your competitors are performing and how many potential customers you are letting go:

With an accurate content library, Google will list your “top fixes” in order of importance, giving you detailed steps on how to improve your site speed, content delivery, and any delay factors that impact user experience.

While not the ultimate test of all, mobile testing, it gives you a clear picture of how to improve your current score to make the most of mobile indexing.

Conclusion

Mobile traffic is not the future but the present. Google’s gradual release of indexing through mobile-first means that Google will index mobile sites first instead of desktop sites. This simple change may not sound revolutionary, but it is.

Update your mobile site with your desktop content and make sure you always update your mobile site accordingly. If you wanted to stay competitive in the mobile market, your website should be AMP optimized.

If you are looking to convert your website or online store in AMP or in a mobile-friendly experience, explore our website design services! If you have query regard to different tools and metrics to evaluate your websites, we are happy to assist you. If you are looking to improve your website’s usability, speed, user experience, explore our UI UX web designs services! We are also providing website revamp, website redesign, online store revamp, ecommerce website revamp services, for more information, please explore our website redesign services!

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