Google’s Mobile-First Index: What It Is & How You Can Prepare

In 2016, mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time in history. It only makes sense that this trend has greatly influenced Google’s algorithm changes over the past few years. As mobile traffic grew beyond desktop traffic totals, Google announced that their search engine indexing would transition to mobile-first.

 

Currently,  21% of small business sites aren’t optimized for mobile use. 😲 If Google suddenly flipped the proverbial switch to mobile-first indexing, the vast majority of sites dominating the competition would face an SEO Great Depression, potentially destroying their current modus operandi. Fortunately, Google confirmed that the Mobile-first indexing isn’t going to be an immediate update and would roll out slowly as testing was underway. It’s been over a year and a half since the original announcement but Mobile-first indexing is coming quickly and it presents serious changes to the status quo of website indexing.

So, what does mobile-first indexing really mean?

Google has noted that the majority of people worldwide are browsing the web on mobile devices and are therefore visiting the mobile versions of websites more than the desktop versions. But currently, Google’s entire indexing system looks at the desktop version of a site first when assessing quality and relevance for users.

This is causing a huge disconnect for Google users. If most people are using mobile devices to browse, yet Google indexes the desktop version of a website for relevance and quality, it’s likely that mobile users are getting a sub-par experience. And remember the previous statistic: 21% of small business mobile sites aren’t optimized. That means that many Google users are inevitably visiting low-quality mobile sites. Google and business sites can’t afford to let that happen anymore. Not when 85% of users won’t return to your site after having a poor mobile experience.

For these reasons, Google will slowly roll out changes to make mobile sites first priority when it comes to indexing content for relevance and quality. Google will still index your desktop site versions, but they’ll give mobile the first priority.

How do I know if my website is mobile friendly?!

Don’t stress, if your website was developed by Partek within the last 5 years, it is very likely your website is responsive and mobile friendly. If your site is mobile-friendly or mobile-responsive, meaning your content dynamically updates between desktop and mobile, you won’t have to make any fundamental changes to your site.

So, how can you be sure your website is mobile-friendly or responsive? One of the easiest ways is simply using Google’s Mobile-Friendly test tool.

There is always room for improvement.

Great! Your website is mobile-friendly or mobile-responsive, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be concerned about improving your mobile site.

With mobile traffic dominating the online browsing landscape and Google adjusting accordingly, now is the time to shift your focus. Priority should go beyond dynamic optimization and responsiveness; Your entire website should cater to the mobile user. Everything from the structure to the design and elements you use.

Users browse very differently on mobile than they do on a desktop computer. More often than not, simply mimicking a desktop site for mobile devices won’t fully optimize the user experience. On mobile, screens are smaller, computing power is limited, and users are often on the go. Typical page elements and high-resolution images are going to bog down the mobile user experience. Having a deep site architecture can cause awful mobile experiences, forcing users to click through dozens of tabs to reach the content they need:

Website architecture (Image source: Riverbed Marketing)

Resolving these types of issues obviously requires serious thought, it may even necessitate a redesign of your site structure. But Google’s impending mobile-first index should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

All of Partek’s websites are built from a user experience perspective, with a focus on ease-of-use and simple navigation. But if your current site structure is deep and difficult to navigate on mobile, it may be time to seek to simplify the experience of mobile users on your site. Google Analytics is a great source to find data on your website mobile users, see which sections are difficult to navigate and where common drop-off points are. We create a Google Analytics account for each of our web development projects in order to measure the success of every website we build.

Now is the time to get ahead of the curve.

Contact us or register for one of our management plans to make sure your website is Mobile-First ready. Partek will focus on making your site mobile-friendly and responsive, improving speed, and putting mobile first in everything that you do on your site.

Content provided by Kinsta, learn more about Mobile-First and check out their in-depth article here.

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