Mobile First Indexing – Are You Really Prepared?

2016 saw mobile web browsing overtake desktop web browsing for the first time. Given this fact it’s hardly surprising that concentrating on optimising the mobile user experience is the source of such effort by Google, and by any website owner who wants to remain competitive in the marketplace. Make no mistake, if you want to optimise your marketing online, you need to put the mobile experience at the forefront of your efforts, to attract custom and to fare well with Google.

For a significant amount of time, Google has recognised the importance of mobile. This became more apparent when Mobilegeddon hit in 2015. Let’s take a look at the story so far and examine what the next chapter, “mobile first indexing”, means for you.

Google’s History With Mobile

When Google determines rankings, its main aim is to make the Internet a better place for all users. It follows that as mobile web browsing has come to prominence, Google’s interest in the mobile user experience has followed suit. Although Mobilegeddon was not the big bang that many expected, it was important. It meant that Google was looking to reward mobile friendly websites in its rankings.

However, point to note that if your site is not mobile-friendly, its ranking won’t suffer on Desktop Google search but it would likely to suffer in Mobile Google Search as that Mobilegeddon meant to reward the sites in mobile search which are fully responsive and offer the best user experience to users when viewed on mobile devices.

What Does Being Mobile Friendly Mean?

From Google’s point of view, what it looks for with regard to a mobile friendly site is actually fairly simple.

  • Sites should be easy to read when using a mobile device. There should be no need for the user to scroll (horizontally) or to zoom to see the content.
  • All links and buttons should be easy to access using a touch screen. For instance, if you have used a touch screen device, you know how difficult it can be to access links that are positioned too close together.
  • Users should be able to load all content using a mobile device. Some website owners restrict the amount of content that can be viewed on the mobile version of the site so that the load time is not too slow. This does not help with rankings if it means that mobile users are missing out on certain

These factors are taken into account in Google’s algorithm, so it’s important to pay attention to them.

What is Mobile First Indexing?

Mobile first indexing is the next chapter in Google’s mobile story. There are no definitive dates for the rollout of the new process, but it’s likely to take place throughout 2017. In order to understand what mobile first indexing entails, you need to be aware of the current process.

As things stand, Googlebot searches new content and websites and the information gathered is stored in an index and used when Google produces search results. The desktop version of the website is used to gather the information.

When mobile first indexing is introduced the same searches will be conducted, but the mobile version of the website will be used. This is another major step in Google’s ethos of recognising the importance of the mobile user experience.

What does this mean for your business?

What Google looks for in a mobile friendly website is not changing. If you already have a mobile friendly website, which mirrors your desktop site, the chances are that you will not be affected that much. If your mobile site has less content than your desktop site, then you really need to start making changes.

The trick is to start thinking of mobile in the first instance, and everything should fall into place. Using responsive web design is a good place to start. It’s also Google’s recommended option. The flexible grid layouts mean that your content fits the size of the screen on which it’s being viewed.

This is only the foundation for optimising your mobile presence though. If you really want to make the most of the potential mobile audience, you need to design your website with mobile in mind, and then make adjustments for desktop, if necessary.

If you do this, then you can also ensure that you are ready when mobile first indexing is rolled out. You need to ensure that all of the information you want people to see is available on your mobile website; do not forget that it’s this content which is going to be used to determine your search engine rankings.

When designing a website for mobile, you also need to think about page load time. Do not forget that Google considers page load times as part of its algorithm. It’s also worth mentioning that mobile users tend to expect a page load time of around three seconds. They are tempted to look elsewhere if page load times are slow.

You should already be dedicated to providing a good user experience for mobile users, given the high numbers of people who could be accessing your website this way. The only real change with the introduction of mobile first indexing is that your mobile web presence will be given priority when determining your search engine rankings.

What If Your Business Does not Have a Mobile Web presence?

If you do not have a mobile-friendly web presence, you really should be questioning why. You cannot afford to miss out on attracting people who browse the Internet using a mobile device. Having said this, there are businesses that run websites that are only optimized for desktop.

If this applies to you, it’s important for you to know that Google will still use your desktop site to collect information from when mobile first indexing is introduced, as there is no mobile web presence to use.

If you are thinking of developing a mobile friendly website, do not rush the work just because of the mobile first index. It’s better to take your time and make sure you get the design and content right.

Mobile first indexing has been in the pipeline since it was first announced by Google last year. If you need to do any work, to ensure that your rankings are not adversely affected, you really should get started, so that your preparations are complete when the new indexing system is finally rolled out.

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