Google recently announced that it has started to roll out its Mobile-first indexing of the web. This means that for the first time ever, your site’s mobile version will decide its search rankings. The move to mobile-first indexing is happening at the perfect time, since 2017 web traffic from mobile device’s exceeded 50%, more than desktop and tablet traffic combined.
This means that your website needs to be mobile-optimized and always up to date on its SEO. A website that’s not prepared for this change could see its ranking drop in Google’s search results. This will lead to a decrease in traffic to the site, less potential customers for you, and an increase for your mobile-first competition.
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll understand everything from the basics of Google indexing to website design best practices and how to optimize yours.
What is Google Indexing? How Does it Work?
The organization of more than one billion existing websites is the result of Google crawling and indexing the web, so when you search “pictures of the ocean” you get the results you want.
Crawling – Google’s spiders search for new sites, changes to existing sites, and dead links, to update the Google index. When the spider reaches your site, it “crawls” and follows the site’s internal links, deciding what is important and needs to be indexed.
Indexing – The organization of all the accumulated webpages into Google search.
It may sound simple, but Google says that over 200 factors are looked at when deciding relevancy of query results. Some factors are simple, such as the amount of words on a page. Other factors, such as backlinks, which are links to your site from other sites, are more difficult to optimize.
Tell Me About the Change to Mobile-First Indexing
Google indexing has seen many upgrades and changes since its inception. The one commonality has been that the desktop version of a website is crawled and indexed.
In 2016, Google announced the strategy to move their entire index to mobile-first, focusing on the content and design of a website;s mobile version. The transition began with a small number of websites in December 2017. and that starting in July 2018 slow-loading pages will begin to drop in the rankings.
Don’t worry, Google says they’re notifying you as your website moves over to the mobile crawlers.
As mentioned earlier, this change is happening due to the shift in technology and constant increase of web traffic on mobile. But this is not the only reason.
Websites have always had URL’s that made them easy to find, kind of like finding a word in the dictionary. Things like native apps, web apps, and Google’s Accelerate Mobile Pages do not have traditional URL’s and therefore cannot be indexed the old-fashioned way. Technology on mobile is advancing in this URL-less direction, which will allow Google to focus on user concerns, such as engagement, rendering, and speed.
Do I Need to Update My Website?
The short answer is maybe. Most websites were not prepared for mobile viewing when smartphones first came around. They were meant for larger screens, so we often had to scroll horizontally to be able to read full lines. Mobile friendly websites were next, where everything from the desktop site was shrunken down to fit on your phone, leading to a lot of pinching and zooming.
What this blog post would look like on your phone if it wasn’t responsive. Not very user friendly, right?
As mobile web browsing continued to increase in popularity, we began to realize that mobile is the future. Building websites with a responsive design became the norm. Responsive websites adjust with the changing size of screens and are built to maintain a consistent user experience among devices of all shapes and sizes.
As you can see by the below images, from desktop and mobile respectively, Tin Roof Brewing’s website is a great example of this. It’s easy to use, and there is no loss in experience or content on either device.
Many websites are responsive and attractive across devices, but that doesn’t mean they’re prepared for the mobile-first update.
Since Google has always crawled desktop versions of websites, many developers built sites to make Google’s crawlers happy. Removing some of the content and design to make the site look great on mobile occurred after completion.
New (and existing) websites need to be responsive, but now also designed with mobile first content and design in mind. Additional design details for larger devices should be added after. Designing in this order can ensure that no content is missing from the mobile experience.
This create’s a consistent user experience across all devices, leading to happier users, and happier Google mobile crawlers.
It is important to test your site on multiple browsers on different size device’s to make sure you don’t lose content and design quality at any point in the user experience.
Over 63% of internet users are expected to be browsing from their phone by 2019. That number will only continue to grow.
It’s not the end of the world (yet) if your website’s desktop experience greatly outshines its mobile counterpart, but 57% of mobile users say they will not recommend a business that has a poorly designed mobile site.
Google is constantly preparing for what they know is the future, and you should be preparing along with them. There are options to get your business and website prepared, such as having experts take a look at your site so they can optimize it across all browsers and devices.
Get an SEO audit. SEO experts will be able to identify poor performing areas of your site (on any device), a better performing website will bring you more organic traffic (more sales!), and you want to stay ahead of your competitors who will be getting their SEO audits.
Are you prepared? Have more questions?
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