What Google’s Mobile First Efforts Mean for Your Website
February 22, 2018
On February 21st, 2018 at the Austin, TX PubCon, Gary Illyes of Google made the announcement that the massive search engine has decided to make “mobile first” websites a priority with a new index. This comes as no surprise to most individuals in the tech industry, as whispers of the change have been ongoing for the past few years. Google explained their main reason for the change as the overwhelming number of searchers now using mobile devices over desktop computers. From tablets and e-readers to mobile phones and music devices, mobile based searches have taken over as the most convenient method of using the web.
Google has made it clear that they will continue to cater to all searchers no matter their device preference, but this endeavor to create a mobile first index will look to the mobile site first, defaulting to desktop if mobile isn’t available.
What Is Mobile First?
Mobile first is exactly what it sounds like, a priority ranking over desktop versions for mobile websites. This means that if a company has a mobile site and a desktop site, the mobile site will automatically rank higher in a searcher’s query results. In the past, even though most searchers were working from mobile devices, Google still used desktop sites as their main source of information to rank a site. Now, the mobile first movement has inspired Google to create an entirely new index and method of ranking to provide better results for the majority.
Benefits Your Site Can Reap from Mobile First
With more than a billion mobile users online, there’s bound to be a positive impact on making your website mobile first. Convenience, portability, and access are all common advantages to using a mobile device over a desktop. Some internet users only surf the net in their free time while riding the transit system, sitting in a waiting room, or during a coffee break from work when desktop systems aren’t always available. This means that not all internet users can always access a desktop to properly view a website if it doesn’t have a mobile friendly option. Below are more ways the mobile first index could benefit your website and company.
Customer Satisfaction and Increased Traffic: Being able to function properly and display information on any platform opens the doors to a wider audience and the possibility of expanding your target. Website users want to access and interact with your site without the need to switch devices to see or use certain material. Studies have shown that site users who have to switch devices to properly use a website will find a different site with the same information before opting to switch to a desktop computer.
Spend Less Time and Money on Your Site: The mobile index includes websites which function as both a mobile and desktop site simultaneously, as well as singularly mobile websites. Individuals and businesses who opt to include both functionalities in one site can minimize the time and money spent updating two separate sites and managing two different sets of code. This also means that the money you spend on your website won’t need to be divided among two separate entities. Instead, you can pour all your time and money into the one location and better serve your site users.
Higher Ranking Potential: The most obvious benefit provided by the mobile first index is the opportunity to rank higher on Google when you have a mobile website. Without the mobile component, your site will still rank, but it might fall below competitors who have both mobile and desktop capabilities.
E-Commerce Gets Easier: One of the major fallbacks many users complained about before mobile first became a priority was ecommerce. Online shopping has become a normal part of life over the past decade, but ecommerce is frustrating when the device you use most often isn’t compatible with the checkout process. Customers who have to swap to their desktop to complete a sale are more likely to forget about checking out at all. This is problematic for companies who rely primarily on internet sales to generate revenue.
How to make Your Mobile Friendly Site Rank Higher with Google
The mobile first movement makes sense for most website owners but could still have negative side effects for businesses who design their mobile site to have less information than their desktop site. To skim down mobile sites and make them run more smoothly, many site owners trim the fat, so to speak, and take out information, graphics, videos, and other content that might otherwise slow a user’s experience when alternating between desktop and mobile websites.
Back in 2016 when Google first breached the subject of a possible mobile first ranking system, they discussed the fallbacks of slim mobile sites when compared to their desktop counterparts. The search engine giant suggested site owners serve structured markup for all website types, be sure that both sites are accessible to Googlebot by using the robot.txt tool, and that canonical URLs are not changed.
Website owners in large cities, where competition for local rankings is higher could potentially tip the scale by putting more into mobile sites with this new index on the horizon. In terms of urban SEO, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix are prime examples of locations where mobile sites could boost local rankings.
Individuals and businesses interested in learning more about this latest change in the Google index can find more details on the Google webmaster central blog.