There is no doubt that SEO continues to evolve, and, with Google mobile-first indexing starting from 1 July 2019, businesses can no longer afford to overlook the role that mobile responsiveness plays in SEO growth.
Every day, millions of searches are done on mobile, with desktop searches slowly beginning to make up the smaller portion of total searches. In recent years, Google has begun to promote mobile versions of the web as its primary search engine index. Rather than using desktop searches, mobile devices are being crawled as Google slowly makes the change over to a completely mobile index.
From the beginning of July 2019, mobile-first indexing will be enabled for all new sites by default. This will apply to any website that is unindexed or newly built. Existing websites will be evaluated and indexed according to best practices. You can learn more about this on the Google blog.
How to Optimise for Google Mobile-First Indexing
What does this mean for your business, though, and how can you be sure that you are ready for the era of Google mobile-first indexing? Although it is certainly a good idea to look at a multi-channel approach that incorporates mobile marketing as well as other channels, there are a few factors that will affect your responsiveness. Ultimately, if your website is responsive, you will be ready for mobile indexing. To get your website ready, here are a few things that you can do to improve responsiveness.
Aim for a minimalised mobile experience
Mobile devices are a lot more limited in space compared to desktop screens. Minimalising content, images, and other details will help to provide a better user experience rather than trying to stuff everything into a small display. Trying to shrink content can often end up being even worse, with pages that are far too long to be easily indexed. Using a mobile version of your full website can be one of the most effective ways to keep your website minimalised on mobile while retaining full information on your desktop version. To get the most from this and improve your overall mobile SEO experience, make sure that you focus on creating content and elements that are ideal for mobile while excluding anything on the desktop version that does not convert well to mobile.
Know when to display and when to hide content
On a similar note, you should also think carefully about how you display content. You may not be able to remove a great deal of content without losing your key messaging. You don’t want to risk lowering your conversion rates or ending up with a website that does not make sense. Your goal here is a user-friendly site that can be easily read on a small screen. The best way to achieve this is to think about when to display content and when to hide content. Keep your key messages visible – above the fold – and keep less important messages below the fold. Essentially, you want your messages to be seen without the user having to scroll down too far. Rather than large blocks of text, look at adding short paragraphs or headers that can be clicked to access full content areas. This will not only help with mobile responsiveness – it will help improve your overall user experience, which, in turn, is great for conversion.
Keep your images responsive
Your images will also need to be responsive to avoid slow loading times and other issues. Larger image sizes are often needed for desktop sites and, while responsive websites have often been able to condense images to fit mobile screens, this can affect loading times quite a bit. When a computer or laptop displays a larger image file, it has the capacity to load faster and more easily. A smartphone trying to display a 1000px image will have a much harder time, however. This will lead to mobile screens either getting stuck in a ‘loading’ loop or it will lead to the user losing interest and leaving the site. Neither of these is ideal. Rather than taking this risk, look at using separate image sizes for your desktop and mobile websites. This will help to increase load times, which will help if users are out of WiFi zones and also generally improve your overall conversion rates.
Don’t forget about buttons and links
Then, you also need to think carefully about buttons, links and other clickable elements. On a desktop site, a mouse is used to click such elements. On a mobile device, a finger or a stylus will be used. The smaller screen size makes it even more important to plan clickable areas wisely. Buttons and links should be larger and easier to click on mobile versions, without taking up the entire screen. The easier the buttons and links are to click, the easier it will be for users to navigate your website, without frustration. This will also decrease bounce rates, which is always a good thing for your overall SEO rankings.
Optimising Mobile Sites for Google Mobile-First Indexing
If you have opted for a separate mobile site rather than a responsive version of your website, what should you be looking at ahead of mobile-first indexing? This is very similar to displaying an optimised version of your full site, but there are a few key differences. Mobile sites typically have their own URLs, acting as a mobile version of your main website. Here are some best practices for mobile sites on separate links.
- Mobile sites should contain the same content as your desktop site. If there is less content on your mobile site, look at using some of the tips we shared above to show or hide content in a way that allows you to keep your content without losing user experience. This includes content as well as images and videos (all of which should be in crawlable and indexable formats).
- Both versions of your website should include structured data. Links within the structured data on your mobile site should be updated to mobile-friendly links. View our tips on the most important elements for mobile SEO to find out what else your mobile site will need.
- Make sure that metadata is in place on both versions. This includes titles and meta descriptions that are the same on both the mobile site and the desktop site.
Like most Google updates, mobile-first indexing will not happen overnight. Google is testing out this indexing, which means that the process will be gradual. With that said, the biggest problem with failing to optimise your site for mobile is that you will end up eventually being penalised in the search results as the indexing continues to roll out. Websites that are outdated and not optimised for SEO already get pushed back in the SERPs. If your website is not optimised for SEO or mobile, you will battle to grow your presence online.
Without an online presence, you will soon start to see an impact on your bottom line. Rather than making the mistake of seeing the mobile era as something that you don’t need to think about until the last minute, start to take a good, hard look at your website to see whether you are prepared for Google mobile-first indexing.