Current Shifts: Mobile First Index

By: Krista LaRiviere on August 22, 2018 Categories: Blog, Current Shifts, Mintent, SEO

Are You Ready for Google’s Mobile-First Index?

The digital landscape is always shifting and changing with new and emerging trends. The most recent trend is the increased use of mobile devices to access the Web and applications. A study found  58% of all searches in Google are now done from a mobile device. With this trend on the rise, Google announced on March 26th, 2018, they will be changing their algorithm to be mobile-first. Are you ready for this change?

What is the Mobile-First Index?

The mobile-first index will rank search results based on the mobile-version of a website, even if the user is searching on a desktop. This means the mobile version of your website will be considered the primary version of your website.

Why is the Mobile-First Index Necessary?

Google’s mobile-first index update is based on numbers and fast-growing trends.

With these numbers in mind, you can understand why Google wants to put mobile users first, and why you should too.

When is the Mobile-First Index Happening?

If you’re panicking about this update – don’t! Google will still index the desktop version of your website; therefore, having a healthy website and quality content will still be perceived as positive signals.

Plus, you have time to get the mobile version of your site ready. The mobile-first index is still in its earliest stages of testing.

“We continue to be cautious with rolling out mobile-first indexing. We believe taking this slowly will help webmasters get their sites ready for mobile users, and because of that, we currently don’t have a timeline for when it’s going to be completed.” – Google

When Google enables mobile-first indexing for your site they inform you through a message on Google Search Console.

Mobile-First Indexing enabled message from Google

While the update is slowly taking place, we still highly recommend you begin to optimize your website with mobile searchers in mind.

How Do You Know if Your Site is Mobile-Friendly?

You can check the mobile usability of your site using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and Google Search Console. These tools will let you know if your site is mobile-friendly and will tell you if there are any issues you need to fix.

How to Use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test

  1. Visit Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
  2. Insert your website URL into the search bar.
    Is your web page mobile-friendly?
  3. Google will test how easily a visitor can use your page on a mobile device and give your page a score.Page is mobile friendly
  4. Google will also let you know if there are any issues which need to be fixed and the specific locations of those issues.Page partially loaded message mobile-friendly

How to Use Google’s Mobile Usability Test

  1. Visit Google Search Console.
  2. Click “Search Traffic” in the left menu.
    Search Console Search Traffic
  3. Click “Mobile Usability”.
    Search Console Search Traffic - Mobile Usability
  4. Search Console will inform you of any mobile usability issues.Mobile Usability Google Mobile-First

How to Optimize Your Site for Mobile Usability & Mobile-Friendliness

There are three different ways you can configure your site for mobile: separate URLs, dynamic serving and responsive design. While Google does not take the configuration into account during indexing, Google recommends using responsive design. This is because a responsive design configuration causes less SEO headaches and tends to be more user friendly.

If you have separate URLs or dynamic serving configuration set up, don’t panic, it will just take extra care to maintain. With a separate URL configuration, it will be important to correctly set up canonical and alternate tags. With a dynamic serving configuration, it will be important to correctly set up versions of your content for all devices and update all, when required.

The Google Mobile SEO Guide shares some tips to help your site show up in the search results, regardless of how your mobile site is configured. We break down these mobile SEO tips below.

11 Mobile SEO Tips

    1. Always allow access to JavaScript, CSS and image files used by your website in the robots.txt file.
    2. Do not feature unplayable content, such as license-constrained media or experiences requiring Flash or other players not supported on mobile devices.
    3. Make sure your redirects are correctly set up.
    4. Avoid irrelevant cross links.
    5. Check and correct 404s, including mobile-only 404s.
    6. Avoid the use of interstitials and overlays that partially or fully cover content on the page.
    7. Optimize page load speed – mobile pages should render under 1 second.
    8. Set viewport tags correctly, this tag will tell browsers how to adjust the page dimension and scaling to suit each device.
    9. Avoid small font size, users should not have to zoom to read the content on your page.
    10. Avoid setting touch elements too close, users should be able to easily tap a desired element with their finger without tapping a neighboring element.While all the above is true, the most important tip is to:
    11. Provide an optimized, positive user experience, no matter what device your visitors are using.

While the update will move to a mobile-first index, your desktop user experience is just as important. Your focus should be on providing your visitors with the best user experience possible, no matter what kind of device they are using. This combined with quality content will safeguard your website against any future algorithm updates.

Are you ready? What do you see as the biggest challenge of a mobile-first index? Let us know in the comments below.

‘Current Shifts’ are developing trends in technology and digital marketing that we’re monitoring. Join us for more discussions as we identify, research and provide insight on current and upcoming topics across the digital landscape. Watch for our ongoing posts here.