It’s not been any kind of well kept secret that Google is transitioning to mobile first indexing for websites. Their ‘Page Experience’ updates throughout 2021 and into 2022 altered the importance of mobile usability as a ranking factor considerably.
Already, 80% of the top-ranking websites globally are mobile-friendly – and with Google’s plan to switch to mobile first indexing, that is certainly going to creep higher towards 100% in the coming months.
Going forward, SEO’s are going to need to be incredibly vigilant in ensuring key landing pages, product pages and traffic driving blogs are well optimised and 100% responsive on mobile devices. So in this blog, we’re going to look at how best businesses, SEO’s and marketers can prepare for the roll out of mobile first indexing.
Mobile Indexing Explained
Since its inception as a search engine, Google has used desktop versions of websites to match a page’s relevance to an individual user’s search query. In 2019/20 Googlebot did start considering mobile variants of pages separately and as such they did have some slight difference in SERP rankings for mobile searches over desktop.
However, it has been announced that the transition to a mobile first indexing approach will complete around July of this year – and essentially it means that the mobile versions of pages will be the most important and the most considered in terms of ranking a website.
What Needs to be Done to Prepare for Mobile First Indexing?
The obvious, and relatively short answer here is that we should all start taking a mobile first approach to website design. But this really just isn’t pragmatic for most businesses.
There are a number of different things that can be done in preparation, and which will become standard best practice once Google takes this next step. Most of which are nothing revolutionary and many SEO specialists will be well aware of their importance to a site already.
Ensure Websites Are Mobile Optimised
Often in SEO, the term ‘mobile-friendly’ is thrown around when in actual fact the phrase would be much better suited as ‘mobile-optimised’. Making a site ‘mobile-friendly’ implies that we’re just ensuring users can navigate the site and perform desired actions easily. But, the term ‘mobile-optimised’ suggests we should be looking at creating a mobile experience which is just as brilliant as its desktop counterpart.
‘Mobile-friendly’ is having content rearranged or shrink when viewed on mobile devices and not a desktop. ‘Mobile-optimisation’ would be resizing on multiple different screen sizes, including or excluding elements of a page and re-thinking Call To Action (CTA) placements so as they will be more impactful to mobile users.
Naturally, because web designers build websites on desktop PCs, we interpret the design of the website on PC by habit and not always the way in which the website will be accessed by users. After all, if we built the website on a mobile then this is the device type we would consider most in the design process.
A mobile optimised approach is more of a mindset change for web designers and SEO’s than it is anything new. But as users have switched to mobile first and with Google set to do the same in its indexing approach – this is a change we will all simply have to make.
Page Speed (As Always)
Can there be a blog on SEO that doesn’t bring up page speed and its importance as a ranking factor? Well, probably, but in the case of addressing how we adjust to mobile first indexing – it’s a pretty necessary metric to address.
The ease of access on mobile devices with their quick navigation bars, compared with a browser’s back button means mobiles are almost built to increase bounce rates.
People are much more impatient on mobile devices, and that’s well reflected in the fact that over 50% will abandon a site that takes 3 seconds or more to load on mobile. Versus between 4-5 seconds on desktop.
To get a feel of just how Googlebot sees the mobile performance of your site, the first place to look is Lighthouse. Running the site through this as a mobile gives you an exact report on what the search engines are actually seeing.
Going off this insight, areas of the site can then be looked at and a ‘mobile-optimised’ approach will be sure to help advance the overall user experience (UX) for mobile.
Mobile First Indexing: Going Forward
It’s not yet clear and easy to define to what extent mobile first indexing will impact everyone, as we’ve seen many Google updates that were supposedly revolutionary come and go without much changing. But, the feel this time, is that those which are still using separate mobile versions of their site, that are not validating mobile errors, that are not building ‘mobile-optimised’ sites, or that are not keeping technical and back-end best practices the same across desktop and mobile are going to seriously fall behind their competitors in search engine rankings.
Essentially, SEO specialists are going to have to consider some extra constraints on their working processes and perhaps encompass some different elements into how they approach SEO strategies for the businesses they work with/for.
For business owners themselves, or overall digital marketing managers, the best plan is to probably consult with an SEO professional and have them audit the website in preparation for what could let it down come July.
Speaking of which, if you’re considering all of the above and would like to have a team of experienced SEO professionals health-check your website and come up with a plan. Why not get in touch with Assured Marketing below.