Google’s Mobile Index – What It Means for Your Website’s Search Rankings
Google is officially rolling out their mobile first index, with estimates leaning towards an early 2018 delivery date. This update is going to cause vast amounts of volatility across most niches, where some existing sites will fall, and other competitors will have the chance to make gains.
The key to defeating and benefiting from this update is to understand what the update will mean for the SERP’s and what you need to do to come out ahead of your competitors.
What is the Mobile First Index?
A mobile first index means websites must have the ability to be viewed easily on a mobile device. Currently, Google has a desktop and a mobile index. Their desktop index is the primary database, but the mobile will soon be the first priority.
By using search agents through mobile rather than desktop, Google can only index content in their mobile index that is available for users on phones and tablets.
Why is Google Introducing This?
More than 50% of all searches are on mobile, and this number is increasing each year dramatically. In a significant amount of countries, mobile devices outnumber desktop computers and laptops by an overwhelming percentage, leaving desktop users as the minority.
With this in mind, Google wants to make sure that the search results which it is serving to its audience are easy to browse on a mobile device. Currently, with the desktop first index, a lot of the results returned are near impossible to read on a mobile device because the website can not adjust in any way for the smaller screen and different orientation.
Google’s mobile index doesn’t mean that you need to create a separate mobile site, in fact, that’s only likely to hurt you because it will divide your link power and could cause you to lose rankings. Instead, you need to ensure that your website is responsive, meaning that it can be viewed comfortably on screens of all shapes and sizes.
Websites that are non-responsive are the most likely to be hurt when the mobile index goes live. The poor user experience for mobile customers means that Google will be more reluctant to rank them highly and send traffic their way.
It seems likely that they will monitor this by using their mobile crawling agents to scrape pages, index them and check them for responsive behavior. If the site merely serves up a desktop page to mobile users, then they could be marked as not having a good mobile experience.
In this case, it seems likely that the non-responsive website would lose rankings to competitors who have more adaptive sites which make for comfortable viewing on a mobile device. It’s difficult to say how strong of a ranking factor this will be, but some SEO’s believe that it could be one of the top four factors.
It’s even possible that sites which aren’t responsive to mobile devices won’t be indexed in the mobile database at all, meaning that you could lose a tremendous amount of traffic.
Fixing the Issue
The RedTail SEO mobile-friendly website fix is to ensure that your website can show up in Google’s index on a mobile device. If it can’t then we will need to redesign your site from the ground-up using a responsive framework that will adapt to different screen sizes.
If you don’t, you could potentially lose an overwhelming majority of your search engine traffic and customers to competitors who have responsive websites.
Fortunately, we have years of experience in creating mobile-friendly sites and can quickly fix your website before it ever becomes an issue. Get in contact with us today and let’s start talking about how we can save you from losing your traffic to your competitors.
Preparing for the Shift
Google changing to Google’s mobile index as its primary index is a huge deal and you should expect a significant amount of volatility in the near future. It’s unlikely that they will make the change without issues, Google will penalize a small percentage of websites while other websites will get off without any change in rankings.
But just as with past updates, Google will tweak their index and algorithm until they are happy with the results that they are serving to their customers. Given that they are now prioritizing the happiness of their mobile users just having a mobile responsive site isn’t enough.
Things You Can Do
It’s likely that with the new Google’s mobile-first index will come algorithm tweaks that help to improve the results further. One example of this would be increasing the importance of site speed within the algorithm. It would be shocking if they didn’t do this because with more users on mobile you need sites to be lightweight and to load quickly.
The most straightforward way of accessing your site speed is to use a website like Pingdom to access your website and record the time that it takes to load. Pingdom also explains precisely why the page loaded slowly and what you can do about it.
For users on mobile devices pages that have a large file size can be so painful that they just choose to go back and find another website to read. The most significant contributor to the file size of your page is images.
If you’re going to serve images, then you want to ensure that the images stored on your site in the maximum size that you plan to serve it in. Storing large photos and then scaling them down forces users to download bigger files than they need, causing incredibly slow load times.
The only way to not only survive but to thrive, from this shift to a mobile index is to create a superior experience for mobile users. If you don’t, you will lose traffic. Google’s mobile index is a significant update for Google, and it’s unlikely that they will ever shift back to a desktop first index.