Adapting to Google's Mobile-First Index
February 1, 2017
Since the end of 2016, Google has been rolling out its “mobile-first” index. It is an expected development considering that mobile users surpassed desktop users in 2014, and so did mobile searches. Even though Google is still testing the code and will maintain a desktop index, that will change once the roll out is complete.
Google’s mobile-first index will change how your website is crawled and how it will rank in search engine results pages (SERPs). Below, our South Florida digital marketing experts explain how to adapt your site.
INTRODUCING MOBILE-FIRST GOOGLEBOT
Google uses a bot to crawl your site to add pages to its index. Essentially, it navigates your site like a real visitor. Before, Googlebot would crawl your site as a desktop user, but now it interacts with your site as a mobile user would. Whether or not your site is mobile-friendly will determine where your site ranks on Google’s SERPs. Therefore, your internal search engine optimization (SEO) strategy has to reflect Google’s prioritization of mobile. Your site needs to be optimized for mobile audiences by either developing a separate mobile site or better yet becoming a responsive site.
STEPS TO ADAPT WEBSITE TO MOBILE-FIRST
The first step toward mobile-first success is having a mobile-friendly site. Afterward, you can follow these additional tips to improve your mobile SEO.
1. VERIFY MOBILE PAGES ARE BEING INDEXED
Go to Google on your smartphone and type in “site:mywebsite.com” using your site’s URL. If nothing shows up, your pages might not be getting indexed. For a separate mobile site, create a mobile sitemap and submit it to Google Search Console. For a responsive site, check your site with Google’s robots.txt testing tool to make sure you aren’t blocking Googlebot.
2. MOBILE CONTENT MUST REFLECT DESKTOP CONTENT
With Google’s past desktop-first index, mobile sites had the luxury to have reduced amounts of content compared to their desktop counterparts. But with the new mobile-first index, this practice could mean significant keyword loss and a decrease in traffic to your site. You might be wondering how to maintain a high-quality user experience while overcoming the challenges presented by the differences in screen real estate available on mobile and desktop. Google has the answer. Unlike before, sites will no longer be penalized for using expandable content. Content hidden under “read more” links, tabs, or accordions will be indexed the same as fully visible content.
3. MAINTAIN FAST LOAD TIMES
Mobile users want convenience, efficiency, and speed. You will hinder user experience and therefore your site’s Google rankings if your mobile site has slow load times. Your site design needs to ensure fast load times or risk getting little to no return on the investment you put into it. Some effective initial steps are the removal of pop-ups, removing the need for Flash, and also optimizing images.
Your audience is on mobile more than ever before. As Google adapts to mobile users, so must your brand’s website. Call our South Florida digital marketing experts to learn how your brand can continue having an effective SEO strategy in this mobile-first digital landscape. At Keenability, we want to help you reach your customers no matter what platform they use.