Google’s Mobile-First Index Survival Strategies

Over half of website traffic is now coming from mobile and tablet devices which means Google has made the decision to switch to mobile-first indexing.

Don’t worry though, we’ll help you make the switch to mobile indexing— and thrive — with five specific suggestions to make sure your website continues to rank on Google.

Why Google changed to Mobile-First

Google’s main focus used to be desktop versions of websites. It indexed sites based on the desktop experience (page speed, usability, etc.) and the content that existed on them. If you had a separate mobile site, Google viewed this similar to duplicate content. Therefore, it is recommended that websites be mobile-friendly via a mobile-first responsive design.

Now, mobile usage is outpacing desktop. For example, the average user spends 69% of their media time on smartphones.

As a result, Google now indexes and ranks sites based on the quality of content and mobile user experience first. This initiative has launched for most sites in 2018.

This major algorithm change forces you to adjust your SEO priorities to make sure that your online content is optimized for this new search reality. Your pages better load quickly on a smartphone. Your links better be working on your mobile site. If you can’t change, your problem is only going to get worse.

How do you weather the storm? Change your focus from desktop to a mobile-first strategy. Google has made updates in the past. You got through it. You are flexible, nimble and able to adjust.

5 Tips to Survive the Mobile-First Shift

1. Find Out if You are Already Mobile Friendly

If you use a popular content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, your website may already be mobile friendly. Although there is always room for improvement, you can test your website’s mobile friendliness by using Google Search Console or the Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

We can’t emphasize the importance of mobile-friendly websites enough. Don’t delay, a poor mobile experience can cause users to leave and lower your conversions.

2. Prioritize Mobile Responsive Sites

Responsive sites are easier to manage, and is the recommended way to display mobile-friendly content according to Google. Responsive sites pull in, and show, the exact same information to mobile users as they do for desktop users. They render the website arranged to accommodate the screen size. Most popular content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress, do this for you automatically. However, if you choose not to have a responsive site, make sure all of your content is being shown on mobile, as well as provides a great user experience.

Additionally, if you’re not using a responsive design, make sure that the mobile pages can be crawled. For example, if you are using a mobile site, such as https://m.example.com/, Googlebot needs to be able to see your files. If Googlebot cannot see your files due to a robots.txt, it will not recognize that the page is mobile-friendly.

Potential issues with having a separate mobile site include:

  • Double the work
  • Duplicate content issues
  • Diverted link equity from both internal and external links

3. Improve Your Mobile Site Speed

Site speed is a ranking factor. According to Google, 53% of users wait less than 3 seconds before abandoning the page. There are many tools out there to test mobile speed but we recommend using a combination of:

One quick and relatively easy fix that can greatly impress your sites speed is reviewing your site’s image sizes. Images take longer to load than text, so compressing them to smaller file sizes will improve your load time. Other speed issues can be very technical, such as browser caching, and will require you to work with website development team to implement.

4. Adjust Your Content for Mobile

The goal is to make your content more than just mobile responsive. You want it to be truly mobile friendly.

Some considerations include:

  • Size business items like location and service description to fit within the margin of smaller screens
  • Avoid implementing intrusive ads and popups that take up most of the screen
  • Write in shorter paragraphs, when possible
  • Create flow with touch-friendly methods
  • Add audio or video content that can be more easily consumed on mobile devices

5. Check Structured Data

Structured data helps provide another source of information about a page for search engines, so the search engine can return useful results to users. Often, structured data is removed from a site’s mobile version. To ensure that your structured data is implemented correctly, we suggest using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool and Google Search Console on your site to ensure it is the same across both devices.

Adapting to the Mobile-First Index

Mobile-first indexing is very important, because we are now a mobile-first world. The only way to stay competitive is by executing a mobile optimization and marketing strategy.

If you need help, Knucklepuck offers expertise in every step you need to properly adjust to the changes. In fact, we can use the changes to help you gain advantages over your competition. Contact us today. We’re ready to help.

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/08/17/preparing-for-the-mobile-first-index/2/#df3613d17f48
  2. https://www.soasta.com/blog/google-mobile-web-performance-study/
  3. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/googles-mobile-first-indexing-what-it-is-how-you-can-prepare/212104/
  4. https://www.comscore.com/Insights/Presentations-and-Whitepapers/2017/2017-US-Cross-Platform-Future-in-Focus?
  5. https://www.emarketer.com/corporate/coverage/be-prepared-mobile
  6. https://www.netmarketshare.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx
  7. https://www.soasta.com/blog/google-mobile-web-performance-study/
Anthony's normal bitmoji

Anthony Caccavale

About Anthony Anthony accidentally fell in love with SEO. After studying communication at Virginia Tech, he landed an SEO internship at a PR firm, aiming to move towards PR. However, SEO quickly grabbed his heart and wouldn’t let go. He immediately sought work in the field. After several years at a strategic communications agency, Anthony…

Learn More