In the ever-changing landscape of SEO, mobile first indexing is one of many tools Google is introducing. This will place the focus on mobile devices and browsers, instead of desktop browsers. The intention behind mobile first is to consider user experience of a site from smartphones, because more people browse the internet on their phones these days.
What is Mobile First?
You’re probably wondering: ‘what does mobile first mean’? In short, it’s a way to optimize websites for mobile devices above desktops. This means that the site will have to first be functional on mobile, before you can think about desktop.
Google has been talking about Mobile First since 2010. At that point, it was mainly about responsiveness in websites and designing for phones/tablets. In March 2018, Google began testing Mobile First indexing. Four months later, they rolled out a ‘Page Speed Algorithm update’.
What is Mobile First Indexing?
To follow Mobile First design, or responsive sites, Google has been testing mobile indexing algorithms to index your site. This means that Google will index the mobile version first, then the desktop. However, this doesn’t mean that Mobile First will be ‘mobile only’ from now on. So, why is mobile first important?
Optimizing for mobile is already important for most news sites and online shopping. However, it’s just as important for text content. If your content is hard to read on mobile, you’ll see higher bounce rates and lower rankings. This is because web users expect quick load times and easy-to-digest content. Good examples of easily digested content include images and short videos paired with quick captions or paragraphs.
Effects on Rankings & Websites
Mobile versions of your site will now be the ‘primary version’ of your site. As I’ve mentioned, his puts user experience first. So mobile-functionality is now vital to site success. Content will still be indexed, but the site will drop in mobile rankings. So, your mobile rankings could influence your site on all platforms.
How do I make my Site Mobile First?
The best way is to use the mobile-first approach, which means considering mobile first. This includes designing for smaller devices, structuring your content and optimizing for mobile. While some say that this is a trend, it is actually recommended by Google. You’ll probably wonder if you should start with mobile first or desktop first? Well, Google says mobile is the way to go.
So, to start, you’ll need to decide on a mobile first strategy and how your site will look. For this, we recommend choosing a version of mobile design from the list below.
Mobile Responsive Website
Responsive websites are identical on mobile and desktop, with small changes. One of these is a collapsible menu, which frees up space. Most responsive content sites will also scale media and text to the device size. So, screen real estate must be considered and accounted for in design, preferably with set sizes.
Mobile Adaptive Website (a.k.a. Dynamic)
Instead of fitting the browser, adaptive sites will fit the screen. When compared to responsive sites, adaptive sites will adapt to any screen without recommended sizing. Adaptive sites should have content that’s confined to:
- Different sizes for fonts
- Smaller images
- Prioritized content
Separate mobile site – e.g. mysite.mobi, m.mysite.com, etc.
- Completely different URL
- Less content
- Mobile only
- Two different entities
Other Mobile First Strategy Sites
Accelerated mobile page (AMP) versions of content or HTML with only specified Java Script. This tells bots to load only certain elements to make it faster. Of course, this will require a lot of HTML5 considerations and possibly separated Java files. Therefore, you’ll have a simple mobile web page.
How to optimise for Mobile First
- Verify the mobile version on Search Console
- Consider content and optimise appropriately
- Consider functionality on mobile and optimise
- Track all changes and adjust
- Use page speed tests
- If you don’t have it, get it
What does Google Recommend for Mobile First?
According to Google, ‘your mobile site should contain the same content as your desktop site’. In other words, your primary content should be the same. This includes:
- Images (with titles, alt-attributes, etc.)
Structured data should be available on both versions of the site. Make sure URLs in the structured data on the mobile versions are updated with the mobile URLs. Use Google’s Data Highlighter to provide structured data & check the Data Highlighter dashboard regularly for errors.
Metadata should be present on both versions of the site. Make sure that titles and descriptions are equivalent across both versions of your site.
Suggestions for SEO – Mobile First Approach
To start making mobile versions better, these are the three most SEO specialists suggest starting with indexing, crawling and checking your rankings. These mobile first principles will help you to think mobile first.
There is an option to index the mobile site on Search Console (the new one).This will show the issues faced on your mobile version. Indexing sitemaps in the XML format is key to updating mobile first indexes. This is the most important aspect, because of the new algorithm. Indexing also allows bots to find all of your content and compare it to the desktop version. Sites that rank better will have the same content.
There is also a way to crawl your site on Search Console for mobile. This picks up crawl errors, so fix them. Both buttons for mobile and desktop can be found on the ‘Fetch as Google’ page.
With all of the focus on Mobile, specialists suggest checking mobile rankings separately. That way, you can see the differences in your Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
When should I have Mobile First?
According to the experts, mobile first will take over SERPs by 2020. This is because Google intends to transition slowly to benefit site owners and users. In general, it’s best to start early and get all the issues fixed before then. Thus, use Google’s tools and suggestions to ensure that your site will match up to the new criteria and keep you site up-to-date on mobile first framework.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve used our tips!
Frequently Asked Questions about Mobile First
What is mobile SEO?
Mobile SEO is a form of search engine optimization which focuses on making sites easier to use on mobile devices. All aspects of SEO are still used, but the overall viewing of content is the most important.
What is mobile first strategy?
Mobile first strategy is an approach in SEO and website development that focuses on creating content and websites for mobile devices first. Using a mobile first approach is vital to the overall success of a site in terms of rankings and traffic. Starting with a smaller screen and working from that point also helps when it comes to content on any device and how it displays.
What is mobile first responsive design?
Mobile first responsive design is one method that websites can use to optimize for mobile. In responsive design, sites will be catered for on several set screen sizes. This begins with the smallest mobile device and moves up to the largest tablet screen. The desktop site will also be included, and will keep identical content from each screen size.
What is mobile first index?
Mobile first index is a new feature from Google on its Search Console tool. Indexing is used by search engines to trace each page on a website, depending on the URL it crawls. Google will use the mobile version of a site to index the entire site, depending on the links of the page.
How can I improve my mobile SEO?
The best way to improve your mobile SEO will be to follow our steps above and consider the mobile version of your site. To fully optimize for mobile, you will need to have to do the following:
- Ensure that the site is responsive
- Improve the overall speed of the site
- Block pop-ups
- Refrain from using too many redirects
- Use the right view port, also known as viewable area of a screen
- Verify your mobile-friendliness
- Test for Mobile Friendliness on Google
Does Google prefer responsive websites?
Yes, Google prefers websites that respond to the device they’re accessed on. In fact, mobile versions that are optimized rank better than desktop sites.
How is responsive design different from adaptive design?
Responsive design is based on the browser, and will adapt to screens based on set sizes. Most websites will design these templates and put functions in place to pull the right size. On the other hand, adaptive websites will have their templates on the server, while also adjusting in real-time to the screen size of the device. Having a mobile first platform for either type of site is always beneficial.
How do I optimize my website?
By following our tips above and those in our other blogs, it should be easy to get your site on track.