Google’s: Mobile-first indexing

Nicole Tuffin, 25 Jun 2018

Mobile searching currently possesses a 52.2% share  of total searches, making it the preferable searching method over desktop searches. This increase in share doesn’t seem to be stopping and it has prompted Google’s response over the past year to outline, develop and roll out Google algorithm update: mobile-first indexing. But, how will mobile-first indexing affect website rankings? What do mobile sites need to do to adapt to the change and even improve their rankings in the face of this? More importantly, what does this mean for companies without mobile sites?

What is the impact of mobile first indexing?

For those who don’t already know, mobile-first indexing means that when Google is indexing they will now look to mobile sites first, in replacement of desktop sites, and will therefore become the predominantly used and viewed version of websites. Consequently, those providing a superior mobile-friendly experience may see themselves climb the rankings, whilst those lacking in this aspect or perhaps with insufficient significant content, fall behind.

What is Google’s advice for mobile-first indexing?

As of March 2018, Google stated they are currently only incorporating sites which they have deemed ready in terms of meeting ‘best practice’ criteria. Their main reason being it gives websites time to create mobile sites (if currently desktop only) or improve their current mobile sites to meet new demands.

It’s important to note that whilst they continue to roll out their new indexing, Google advised having no mobile site, if it’s being created or developed, rather than having a broken, non-user friendly or fully functioning site which will rank poorly.

What is the value in having a mobile-first site?

Older studies found 57% of mobile users said they would not recommend companies with poorly designed mobile sites. Since then, this figure will have only increased as mobile searching becomes more prominent, with the bottom line being there’s an almost immediate need for mobile sites to progress. Enriching the amount of valuable content mobile sites contain as well as upgrading the mobile user experience will significantly increase favorability for these websites.

How do I optimise my site for mobile?

1. Improve mobile site speed

The speed of your mobile site is arguably the most important aspect for improvement and it’s easily aided by simple factors such as compression of images and removal of extra code.

2. Review keyword strategy

Another priority should be to revise the utilisation of short and medium tail keywords for products and services, and long tail keywords for blogs and addressing of user questions.

3. Summarise and signpost content

Particularly for those publishing, summary bullet points at the top of the page, preferably with links, can be immensely valuable. As well as enhancing user experience, these can help to increase chances of ranking, and even lead to greater presence in rich search results across Google.

Data taken from Pi Platform – Trending Workspaces

4. Check on-page optimisation

Ensuring optimisation of design elements, including images, content, internal and external link, should also be a high priority.

Data taken from Pi Platform – Intelligent copy feature

Data taken from Pi Platform – Backlink analysis feature

Internal links are especially useful in aiding Google’s identification of important pages and content, in turn helping sites perform better in rankings.

Moving to a responsive web design is recommended by Google and can be particularly advantageous as it directs to one URL, provides the same user experience across different devices and is considered future-proof because of its ability to adapt to any device.

5. Benefit from new consideration of hidden content

This is perhaps the most crucial change with the greatest prospect for impact. As some may already know, hidden content, for example in tabs, will now be treated the same as visible content, meaning its full weight will be considered and can contribute to rankings. The savvy amongst us will realise the opportunity presented to us here, especially via use of filters and expanded content. These will be hugely beneficial through decluttering pages, increasing ease of navigation and utilising this new consideration. Taking advantage of this new aspect and making improvements accordingly can have major benefits for site rankings and consequently increase gains for companies and brands.

What if I don’t have a mobile site?

A warning must go out to those using different URLs for their mobile and desktop sites or without any mobile sites at all. Although they may initially perceive themselves to be unaffected by these changes due to the continued ranking of their desktop site, in the not too distant future they will be facing the negative impacts and could lose any previous dominance.

Preferable mobile sites (including those with the same URL for mobile and desktop sites) will soon surpass them due to Google’s crawler now being mobile-focused and identifying desktop sites as having worse user experience, resulting in their downfall in the rankings. This can have substantial consequences for companies if they fail to keep up because their website traffic will suffer, they may lose their online relevance and in turn these factors will contribute to the diminishing revenue these companies are able to generate.

A final point – although this new indexing is being increasingly implemented, it’s important to remember that ranking results continue to be produced for both mobile and desktop sites, so it’s still useful to track both. At Pi Datametrics we offer tracking for mobile and desktop sites, enabling us to gain sector insights.

For insights and more strategic advice on mobile-first indexing, as well as tracking mobile and desktop sites:

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Posted in Google algorithm updates