SEO is Taking Mobile Websites as Priority for Ranking
Organic search as a marketing channel has always been one of the most consistently updated and rapidly changing channels you can adopt. It has to be this way in order to change with the times, search engines pride themselves on being relevant and having the user’s best interests at heart. One of the most substantial changes in recent years is Google and other engines switching to a ‘mobile first indexing’ approach.
What is Mobile First Indexing?
It’s kinda written right there in the name. ‘Mobile First’. It basically means that Google and other engines now primarily consider your mobile website when determining your organic search rankings instead of what was typically your desktop website.
The reason for this is simply moving with the times and using consumer search behaviour to make the right choice. As most will know by now, we are a mobile first browsing society these days. In 2016 mobile internet browsing overtook desktop traffic and has continued to increase. Worldwide that average is now 60%+ in favour of mobile. In many digitally developed markets this is even higher.
It is because Google knows that the majority of organic search visits come from a mobile device that the brand has decided to prioritise rankings indicators based on the mobile site first. After all Google wants to be able to provide the best results and experiences for a user’s search, this means providing the best website experience for the device it knows will be the predominant access type.
Authors note: For the avoidance of doubt, Google does not index both mobile and desktop separately. It simply uses the mobile version of the site as the version for which is bases its ranking decisions. So, your mobile website ranking is still the primary ranking factor even if a user is searching from a desktop.
What does this mean for my SEO?
This simply means that when you create, update or make any changes to your website, you should be doing so with a mobile first mentality. Mobile is now not only the predominant way that users will likely consume your website, but also the version of the site which will ultimately define how well you rank on search engines.
The basic concepts of SEO still apply across the board, so it’s far from a complete channel overhaul, more of a nudge for you to take your mobile website serious and to prioritise your mobile website experience.
What Should I do?
What you should do ultimately depends on where you are currently at with regards to your website and how it is prepared for mobile. Google has released a list of some of the best practise criteria for mobile first indexing and you can find that list HERE.
Ensure mobile site is readable by Google
Depending on your set up, it may be that your mobile website has been created as an after thought or as an alternate version of your desktop site. This isn’t idela and you should consider changing this asap but in the short term ensure your mobile version of the site is accessible by Google bots. If you have any nofollow or nolink items in your robot you might actually end up not having the mobile site indexed at all.
Match Up Your Content
There are many websites which use a reduced version of the desktop site as the mobile version. This is often done as an alternative to restructuring the site or to reduce mobile site load time. But Google and other engines will potentially penalise you if your content between the two sites varies greatly so marry them up.
Avoid Lazy Load Content
Due to the way some mobile sites are built, certain items on a given page may not load as part of the page but rather load individually when a user completes an action, say a swipe within the page. This isn’t good and that content won’t be indexed as part of the page. Avoid this.
Keep the same page headings across mobile and desktop. Just like before, these headers should be meaningful and relevant to the page and the content that follows. Ensure you use multiple headers on pages with lots of content.
Image Quality and Descriptions
Don’t overthink it and try to use different versions of images for mobile and desktop. Mobile devices are perfectly capable of processing good quality images with strong resolutions. Keep resolutions high whilst minimising file sizes on both mobile and desktop versions of the site. You should also ensure alt text and descriptions match across both sites.
Keep Videos Prominent
Given the way we browse on mobile devices, putting items low down in the content structure means it will require a lot of scrolling to reach lower placed items. Media like video should be prominent and as such may decrease rankings if videos are pushed to the bottom of a mobile page and as such require a lot of scrolling to reach.
Don’t Use Fragmented URL’s
The fragment part of the URL is the end of the URL that starts with #. Most of the time, fragment URLs are not indexable, these pages will be missing from the index after your domain is enabled for mobile-first indexing.
Mobile first indexing for SEO need not be a scary movement, it’s simply a case of building websites that are mobile friendly the way they should be. Remember, we’re talking SEO here but the reality is that you need a website which provides a great mobile user experience if you’re going to succeed in a modern day digital world.
This Article is Part of Our SEO Big Wins Playbook Series
Take a look at the other articles in the series to help you find the big impact areas where you can improve your website’s SEO:
Natural Link Generating Techniques
Local SEO & My Business
Hosting, Server Location and Security
Site Errors (Technical SEO)