Google’s Investment in Mobile-First Indexing in 2018

We all know how Google continuously optimises their algorithms and how they index their websites, and they’ve had some big news for us this year. Back in March, Google started to migrate sites for mobile-first indexing and focused on the first wave. April 30th, May 17th, and May 27th saw the subsequent waves being rolled out.

We can predict that this practice will cost time and money to make sure that everything is ready, but what exactly is mobile-first indexing in 2018 bringing to businesses?

Why is Google Investing in Mobile-First Indexing in 2018?

Simply put, mobile-first indexing means that Google will focus on websites’ mobile versions for indexing purposes. Instead of referring to desktop versions of websites, as Google previously did, they will now refer to mobile versions first for websites with both desktop and mobile versions. Don’t worry, Google will notify you through the Search Console when your website is migrated.

If your website doesn’t have a mobile version, don’t panic: Google is still going to index your website. You probably won’t, however, rank as well as someone who has a mobile website. The first wave of mobile-first indexing started back in March, with brands that already had websites that were extremely mobile-responsive.

Although we’re not quite sure yet of the full impact of this change, Google will eventually move their focus to just indexing and crawling mobile websites. The question remains what happens to the majority of your backlinks on your desktop website.

We’re guessing at this point it’s still a waiting game!

Quick Checklist to Know If You’re Mobile-First Indexing Ready

  1. Mobile site configuration. Choose from a responsive website (Google’s recommendation, websites that adapt to all devices), dynamic serving (similar to the responsive configuration, but each URL serves its own HTML and CSS) or a mobile URL (a mobile website or an m-dot).
  2. Meta tags. This includes optimising for mobile: meta tags, schema tags or structured data, and alt tags.
  3. Page speed and load time. Make sure your website is loading quickly enough for mobiles and the page speed isn’t slow.
  4. Mobile-friendliness. Use the Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to check your mobile-friendliness.

Keep in mind that if you have dynamic serving or mobile URLs, you will need to follow Google’s best practices for mobile-first indexing.

Update Your Site’s Load Time and Page Speed

Google developed a tool to help you compare your mobile site to your competitors’, called Speed Scorecard. This tool lets you compare websites per country and by 3G or 4G – which is very helpful with today’s use of Chrome as a web browser. The company also provides an Impact Calculator, so you know how your mobile website speed could be affecting your business.

According to a Google/SOASTA study from last year, 28% of customers won’t go back to a website if it’s too slow. The study also says that even a one-second page load time delay can make you see a 20% drop in conversions. Customers also converted on websites that were 26% faster than others, with a value of 21.87% of mobile conversions.

Other steps to take to improve site speed are, according to Google:

  • Prioritising visible content
  • Optimising images
  • Enabling compression
  • Removing render-blocking JavaScript
  • Improving your server response time
  • Optimising CSS Delivery
  • Avoiding landing page redirects
  • Leveraging browser caching
  • Minifying resources

Have a Mobile-Responsive Site

The Google/SOASTA study also adds that the number of mobile conversions is expected to grow – after all, almost half of customers (47.42%) use their mobiles for searches. Having a mobile-friendly design is different from a mobile-responsive one.

Google wants mobile websites to start being interactive, with customers able to quickly and efficiently navigate as if they were on desktop. Customers don’t want to see a website that gets blurry images or fonts when they zoom in, so giving your mobile website a good scrub and update is a good idea.

If you focused more on the desktop version, you’ll have to make sure that your website’s mobile version has everything your desktop version does. This includes all the images, structured data, meta tags, content, and much more, all optimised for mobile website.

But for some bigger brands, it goes beyond just having mobile-responsive websites that automatically adapt to every device. Facebook, for example, invested heavily in their mobile-first readiness, even having their own app to specifically make it easier to navigate.

Impact on Mobile SEO

You will likely also notice, through the smartphone Googlebot an increase in the crawl rate. This is a measure you already have access to, which is the percentage of your pages that are being crawled by the Googlebot.

Knowing how often the Googlebot visits and crawls your mobile pages is a vital way of knowing how Google views your site. Make sure you consider the freshness and size of your pages so that the Googlebot visits your website more. This means that Google has a high interest in your website!

With a ‘Speed Update’ planned for July of this year, pagespeed will be an added factor in ranking for mobile searches. And more; Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project can affect how your mobile site is developed and how it performs, as it puts limits on HTML, JavaScript, and CSS used to build pages. It also loads and unloads resources however it considers appropriate. For mobile-first indexing, pages created on AMP HTML will have the same version as the desktop for mobile.

Having a cohesive marketing strategy that keeps the mobile part in mind is very important, as Google seems to really focus on this platform. Get in touch with us to know how we can help you develop your own strategy and make sure that your website is mobile-first indexing ready.

Written by
Marisa Garanhel
Marisa Garanhel

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