It’s no secret that Google’s been moving towards a ‘mobile-first’ approach to its search results for a number of years now. People have been using their mobile devices to browse the web more and more in the last few years, and mobile traffic has now overtaken desktop computers as the main source of Google Searches. For this reason, Google’s encouraging website owners to modify their site to provide a better user experience to visitors. Google will be using mobile useability as a ranking signal in an ever-increasing way, so if you wish to retain your current traffic levels, it’s important to pay attention to the recommendations. This is also a great opportunity to increase your inbound traffic from search engines.
What is Mobile-First Indexing?
Until now, websites were generally built in a ‘desktop first’ way. You built a website so that it prioritized the look and functionality provided on a desktop computer. Mobile responsiveness, or the look and functionality provided on mobile devices, was almost an afterthought.
Mobile-first is the opposite of this. Today, in 2020, You should develop your mobile site assuming that the majority of users are using mobile devices to view it (because they most likely are).
Google’s Mobile-First Indexing will give priority in the SERPs (search engine results pages) to sites that provide a better mobile experience.
What Do I Need to Do to Prepare for Mobile-First Indexing
Depending on the setup of your current site, how much work is needed will vary. If your site’s more than a few years old and doesn’t look good on mobile, it might be time to think about a church website redesign.
But for most sites, there are steps you can take to improve the mobile useability of your current site. Google recently released a guide on some of the steps you can take to improve a website’s mobile experience.
- Make Sure Googlebot Can See Your Content
A Googlebot is a crawler that goes through each page of your website and analyzes the content to determine where it should rank in the SERPs. It’s important that the Googlebot can crawl each page of your website.
Here are some tips Google gives on making sure your website is crawlable:
- You should use the same robots meta tags on the mobile version as those on the desktop version.
- You should ensure that Lazy-Loading is set correctly. Lazy loading is where a webpage does not load an image until you scroll to that section of the page to increase load times. This is set up differently for desktop and mobile sites, so you should follow Google’s Lazy Load Guidelines.
- Be sure that you are not blocking Google’s crawlers from viewing your site via your robots.txt file.
- Make sure primary content is the same on desktop and mobile
In certain cases, your desktop website and mobile website might show different content. For example, your mobile site might display a stripped-down version of your content that better fits all screen sizes. Google advises against this, and instead recommends the following:
“If your mobile version has less content than your desktop version, you should consider updating your mobile version so that its primary content (the content you want to rank with, or the reason for users to come to your site) is equivalent. Only the content shown on the mobile version will be used for indexing and ranking in Search.”
This applies to all content on your website, including H1 heading and paragraphs of text.
- Check your images and videos
Your images and videos will need some optimization to ensure your website is mobile-friendly. A large banner image on your desktop site will not relate well to a mobile site. Google advises that you use high-quality images on both desktop and mobile. Sometimes, large desktop images are converted to low-quality thumbnails to fit on smaller screens, but Google tells us that “Small or low-quality images might not be selected for inclusion in Google Images, or shown as favorably when indexed.”
All in all, Google’s ‘mobile-first’ policy is a benefit to us all, as we all likely use our mobile devices more and more to browse the web. While there is some work involved to successfully navigate this transition, it’s also an opportunity to improve your search ranking over others in your locality who don’t heed Google’s advice. If this is your first time hearing about mobile-first indexing, don’t worry! While Google had initially planned to roll this out in September 2020, due to COVID-19 they extended this timeframe to March 2021. So now is the perfect time to act!
If you have your own development team, Google has provided this Developer Guidelines document, to guide them through the process.
If you don’t currently have a development team and would like to discuss what’s required for mobile-first indexing, or website development in general, our team of experts are always here to help. Just fill click the button below to get in touch.