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May 3, 2018

Mobile-First Index Update from Google - 5 Tips for Website Success

google mobile-first index tips

Google's mobile-first index algorithm changes are live now, and already the marketing industry is abuzz with questions.

In a highly-anticipated announcement, Google announced it was finally rolling out carefully-planned and tested changes to the way the tech giant is currently indexing and ranking web pages. These changes are based on the mobile output of web versus desktop sites. Mobile internet usage crossed 50% in all 63 countries tracked in Google's Consumer Barometer Study for the first time in 2017.

In the past, Google’s index has been based on crawling both desktop and separate mobile sites with a desktop-based algorithm. Currently, pages not passing Google’s mobile-friendly test are weighted and ranked lower when crawled. These pages are typically served lower in the search engine results. With the introduction of its new mobile-first index, Google’s search experience will be primarily built from a mobile user’s perspective, and all web pages will be judged independently and ranked by a smartphone crawler.

What is Google’s ‘Mobile-First’ Index?

Google is making many changes to serve the bulk of search traffic and internet activity – the majority now coming from mobile searches. Check out our tips below to get your site ready for this new way of indexing and ranking pages.

Here are 5 Tips to Prepare for Google's Mobile-first Index:

  • Optimize for Mobile Devices
  • Faster Site Speeds and AMP Pages (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
  • Verify and Test Your Website with Google
  • Use Structured Data
  • Optimize for Voice-Based Search

Let’s Take a Closer Look!

  1. Optimize for Mobile Devices– With responsive design, it’s important to remember that on the smaller screens of mobile phones and devices, every element of design and user experience will count. Good user experience includes a fast render (load) time, simple navigation and a site that draws users to convert.
  2. Faster Page Load Times Matter – If a mobile site doesn’t render quickly, users move on. In fact, Google cautions that a mobile site shouldn’t take more than three seconds to load. One of Google’s new current projects, AMP Pages (Accelerated Mobile Pages) will have a positive impact on site speed and user experience, helping present your website’s content in a better light to your end user on mobile phones and tablets. However, to clarify this point, one of Google’s leading Webmaster Trends Analysts said that AMP Pages will not be solely used to judge and increase rankings of websites, at least for now.
  3. Verifying and Testing with Google – The new mobile-first index is designed to behave like a mobile user, with the same standards for simple navigation, look and feel, and easy-to-use interfaces. Ensure Google’s search engine crawlers can access both mobile and desktop versions of your site. Double-check to be sure your mobile site is verified as a separate property in the Google Search Console. When finished, check your site with the Google Mobile Testing tool. Is your site mobile-friendly? Did it pass the test? If not, make sure you connect the tools and make the appropriate changes to your site and it’s connecting code.
  4. The Importance of Structured Data and Schema/Markups – This may not be an issue for those who have already introduced responsive design and have updated their SEO best practices. What is structured data? A coding tool added directly to a page’s HTML, structured data allows search engines to generate rich snippets. These are small pieces of bulleted or highlighted information that appear higher up in the search results. When a user asks a question, such as “how to get rid of ants” or “best web site design features”, websites with structured data and rich snippet code built in have a chance to be featured at the top of the search engine results. This provides searchers with an answer to what they are searching for and the sites with greater visibility and traffic.
  5. Voice-Based Search and Digital Assistants Voice-based search is projected to grow at a rapid pace through 2018 and beyond. According to Google, over 20% of searches come from voice queries – and the number will only continue to rise! Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. How might they search your site? Where do they go, and how do they get there? What kinds of searches or questions are they asking? Most importantly, what technology are they searching on?

While mobile-first indexing doesn’t automatically mean mobile-only indexing, we know that mobile users behave much differently than desktop users on their phones and devices. Data shows that mobile users are much less attentive, more easily distracted, and have a higher information overload. They also have an increased tendency to abandon conversion-based funnels and e-commerce shopping carts.

Google’s recent roll-out of mobile-first index and research points to an increasingly larger group of task-driven, mobile-heavy users. In the end, Google’s main focus has always been to serve mobile (and desktop!) searchers with the best, most relevant and site-specific search results that ultimately give the end user a great experience, each and every time.

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