How often do you access the internet on your mobile every day? How often do you use a desktop device? Chances are, you use your mobile device much more than a desktop. For this reason, Google has begun (from the 26 March 2018) to roll out their new mobile-first index. This is an update to the core search algorithms which has been a long time coming. And yet, for many businesses, no preparation or changes have been made in order to meet this update head on.
So, what is the mobile-first index and how can you prepare your business site for it in 2018?
What is Google’s Mobile First?
The mobile-first index is a simple change being introduced by Google, but one that will have huge implications for your business site. It means that websites will find their SERPs results influenced based on the quality of their mobile site, not their desktop site as is currently the practice. Of course, this also means that desktop users will also experience results based on the quality of mobile.
For some business websites, this strikes a particular fear. Especially as some do not even have a mobile version of their site. Google has stated that you will continue to be ranked based on your desktop site if a mobile site is lacking, but many are concerned that not having a mobile site will incur additional penalties.
Whatever the case may be, it is undeniable that having a well-optimized mobile website will now be vital for the future of your business site. Being ahead of the trend and optimizing now, then, can save you a headache further down the line.
Are you unsure whether or not your website is well optimized for mobile? Or even if it is slow when loading on mobile? If this is the case, first you need to test the overall health of your website using online tools. Google’s own PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom can be great for determining this before deciding how best to optimize your site for mobile.
How to Speed Up a Site
One of the best ways to ensure that the mobile version of your site is ready for the oncoming mobile-first index is to ensure that your site speed is optimized. Site speed is one of the biggest ranking factors for mobile, as the faster your site loads the better the user experience and the higher Google will rank the site. Slow, tedious, load speeds will cause people to bounce off your site and Google to penalize you quite harshly for that fact.
Improving your overall site speed can take three main forms:
The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project aims to improve the overall performance of the mobile landscape, especially in regards to a magazine or news-based websites. It utilizes a pared-down HTML format, allowing for much faster loading times than traditional HTML. Meaning faster UX and better search visibility.
An alternative to AMP, the Progressive Web Apps offer additional functions which may work better for your business site. Instant loading, quick response to user clicks and immersive UX among them. The catch? You will probably need the help of a trained web developer in order to implement PWA on your site.
On the whole, images are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to ruining your site speed. As such, image compression is a necessary step in order to remove bulky images that are slowing your site down exponentially. There are WordPress plugins that do this for you in the modern day, so it couldn’t be easier.
In order to prepare for the mobile-first changes, there are other ways that you can optimize your site. Particularly, optimist your content for mobile users is very important in the lead up to mobile-first rolling out completely. There are a number of ways that you can make content more UX-friendly, these include:
- Text and images which adapt based on screen size.
- More white space, bigger text and other design choices for better mobile usability.
- Short paragraphs for text, with no more than four lines if possible, to make it easily digestible.
- Use bullet points where possible to illustrate points – just like this!
You may already be using many of these methods already without even realizing it. But, actively optimizing your business site’s content for mobile users is an integral step moving forward and so if you don’t already, you need to start now before the mobile-index is fully implemented.
Having a mobile version of your site in app form – for which you will need the help of mobile app development specialists – can also be a good way to improve UX of your site for users. Doing so will improve your site’s statistics in terms of bounce rate and engagement, allowing Google to rank your site higher due to the overall improved quality.
So, through this, we can see that being fast is the name of the game when it comes to ranking well in SERPs for 2018 and beyond. Investing in optimizing for mobile now, then, is vital in order to prepare for the full rollout of this index.
The change won’t be noticeable yet, but in the coming months, you will begin to see the impact that this new index will have on your site – for better or for worse.