Post contributed by Visiture
Google has been warning us for a long time about the negative impacts of not having a mobile-friendly site. Back in 2015, Google announced it was going to start using a site’s mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor—therefore, penalizing any sites that were not mobile-friendly.
Then, in 2016, Google announced the roll-out of mobile-first indexing. Historically, Google has crawled desktop sites first. With this change, mobile sites would be crawled before desktop sites. This comes as no surprise, considering that most searches are done on mobile devices, and this number keeps on growing.
One of their latest announcements was released this March when Google announced they were making this Mobile-First transition on a handful of sites. Time is not up just yet, but it sure is close. So, if you don’t have a mobile-optimized site, it’s about time! If you think you are optimized, still continue reading. This change can impact your site even if it’s mobile-friendly.
What Does This Mobile First Change Mean & How Can It Affect You?
To figure out how this update can affect your website, let’s discuss and learn about the different types of mobile optimizations you can have:
- Mobile-friendly website. Your website can be used on mobile, but it’s not fully optimized for a good mobile user experience. Use this Google mobile-friendly test tool to check if your pages are ready. If your site is not mobile-friendly, plan to make the switch to a responsive design for a better user experience.
- Responsive website. This is a more mobile-optimized design. As the name indicates, the website responds to different screen sizes to provide a good user experience, regardless of the device. In technical terms, the HTML being sent remains constant and the CSS is the only one that changes to make the design fit into different screen sizes.
- Dynamic serving. This sends different HTML and CSS codes under the same URL. The content may vary, depending on desktop or mobile use. Some content may be hidden from mobile users to fit their screens.
- Desktop only—not optimized for mobile. You’ve had a couple of years to make the change to mobile—what are you waiting for? This is a site that is not optimized for mobile whatsoever.
Use this Google mobile-friendly test tool to check if your website is ready.
Responsive, mobile-friendly, and desktop-only sites will not see a change because their mobile content is the same as desktop. However, websites with dynamic serving content may see a change if the content on desktop differs from the one on mobile.
It’s recommended that both versions have the same content to avoid a negative impact. Google will give preference to the mobile version first, then the desktop one.
Tips to Make Sure You’re Ready for Google Mobile First Update
1. Verify both versions of your website in the search console.
This tip comes directly from Google. Although seemingly simple, I’ve found that many website owners are still not familiar with Search Console. Previously called Webmaster Tools, it’s a web service offered by Google at no charge. It’s useful to check indexing errors, analyze clicks from search, and analyze mobile vs. desktop, among other things.
Once you add the mobile property to the Search Console, make sure to add <link rel=”alternate”> tags to connect it to your existing site. Then there are four ways to verify a site in the search console:
- Google Analytics
- HTML tag
- Providing domain name provider
- Using Google Tag Manager
I’ve found that Google Analytics is one of the easiest ways to get this done.
Make sure you have the same data on desktop and mobile.
If you take one thing out of reading this article, make it this point! There are three things that have to be consistent on both mobile and desktop: site content, structured data presence, and metadata.
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2. Make structured data present in mobile and desktop.
Google needs to match every search query with relevant results. To do so, it needs to crawl sites and understand their content to make sure the match between a search and a website is as accurate as possible.
Structured data helps Google better understand a website’s content, by providing additional information about a page—thus, making a website easier to read. As defined by Google, “structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content.” Google compares it to a recipe page that provides information about ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.
In turn, this additional data helps with SEO, potentially increasing organic rankings. Structured data is not visible in a page’s regular view; it’s coded using in-page markup, following a specific data format.
If you have separate URLs for mobile and desktop, it’s important to verify that the URLs in the structured data on the mobile versions are updated to mobile URLs.
3. Make sure metadata is present in both versions.
Simply put, metadata is just data about other data. Some of the most popular metadata are tags like the description and title tags. See example below—the blue box surrounds the title tag and the yellow box surrounds the description tag.
Also structured data, they help Google crawl and understand a site. The idea behind this tip is to make sure the metadata of both your mobile and desktop versions match. Again, this only applies if you have two different versions for mobile and desktop.
4. Enhance your mobile user experience and technical site.
If you’re only now planning on making your website responsive, you’re behind your competition. This should become a priority for you if you haven’t done yet. As users increasingly use their mobile phones for searches and web browsing, Google will continue to favor mobile-friendly websites over the ones that haven’t been updated for mobile devices. If you’ve already made the switch, you are likely to see your website climb search engine results. If you want to further improve your mobile-friendly website, check out the tips below:
- Use images smaller than 100 kb. If your images are too big, they will slow down your website speed and hurt your mobile user experience.
- Use fonts 14 to 16 pts for mobile. Using small font on mobile makes copy virtually impossible to read.
- Check your mobile performance regularly using Google Mobile Speed Test Tool.
Regularly check the performance of your mobile website using tools such as Google Mobile Speed Test Tool.
I hope you found these mobile-first tips for updating your website useful! Comment below with questions…
Ron is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder of Visiture. He is supported by a team of creative geniuses that strive to help clients achieve new levels of success. His passion is helping eCommerce business owners and marketing professionals navigate the search marketing landscape and use data to make more effective decisions to drive new traffic and conversions. Follow me @Visiture_Search