Preparing for the mobile-first index

Google is currently rolling out a new update, that will create its listing based on the mobile version of the websites, rather than the desktop. This is not fully in action currently, but we know it is being worked on to become a full mobile-first index. This is due to the increasing popularity in mobiles being used to surf the web, with more mobile searches than desktop being made for the first time a few years previous. On the 26th of March, Google officially announced that they were beginning the migration of websites that followed the mobile best practices. So, there is a good chance that your website is now being indexed as the mobile version.

Now obviously, this means some aspects of your mobile site may need to change to keep your rankings when the search engine ranking positions (SERPs) become mobile-first, and the purpose of this post is to guide you through preparing for the mobile-first index. Google has stated that if you do not have a mobile site that it will continue to index the desktop site, and that a fully working desktop site is better than a broken mobile site, so build your mobile site well and launch it when it is fully ready.

How should I use content on my mobile site?

Ideally, your site content should not differ to your desktop site, you should be using the same rich content that helped your desktop site rank. This is because Google will be ranking your website based on the content it sees from a mobile user’s point of view, therefore if the content is thinner than on desktop then Google will not take into account the full content on your desktop site when it comes to ranking.

You should avoid hiding any content that can be seen on your desktop website on mobile, as again Google will not see this content when the mobile-first index is in action. If you have too much content on a page and want to keep the design clean on mobile, it will be okay to opt for expandable content, such as accordions.

Are there any other changes that need to be made?

The other main factor you need to ensure you have done is page speed on mobile. Google uses page speed as a ranking factor, and your desktop page speed and mobile page speed are different things, so you need to ensure that your mobile page speed is fast. You can check your mobile page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights, and it will give help you with all the things that you need to do to increase your page speed, if it is not at a good level. Get to grips with your websites page speed here.

Another point that has been made is to avoid using m-dot mobile websites (e.g. https://m.example.com/) and move over to responsive, which means that your mobile and desktop website are the same, they are just designed in a way in which they work seamlessly on any screen size. It has been recommended, by Google, that you do this before the mobile-first index is fully rolled out, so the sooner the better when it comes to making your website responsive.

How do I know if my site is mobile friendly?

First of all, it is important to rigorously test your mobile website to ensure that it provides a good user experience. UX on a mobile site is vital for keeping users on your website and getting them to interact with your business and essentially, achieve higher conversion rates. As well as testing to ensure that your site is perfect in the eyes of the user, you can also use Google Search Console to test if your pages are mobile friendly:

  • Select your chosen account
  • Go to search traffic > Mobile usability
  • Check for any usability errors.

If your site has no usability errors on mobile this will be clearly stated on the mobile usability page.

Mobile Usability for mobile-first index

How will my rankings be affected?

A few members of the Google team have stated that they do not want there to be much change in the search rankings and that there should not be much overall change once the mobile-first index is in full swing. However, they have stated that they cannot be 100% sure. So, it will be best practice to make the necessary changes to show Google your site is great on mobile, and you shouldn’t see any detrimental effects.

Our team are experts at crafting perfect desktop and mobile sites and we have recently won a mobile excellence badge for our site, so if having great mobile web design is what your business needs, then contact us to talk to one of the team!

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