Is Your Website Ready For Google’s Mobile-first Indexing?

by | Mar 19, 2020

You may remember hearing back in 2016, Google announced that it was switching to mobile-first indexing of websites. 

Presently it’s at about 70% and is due to finish in September 2020. At which point all websites will be crawled by Google’s mobile-first indexing algorithm.

But what does this mean to a website owner and how will affect your business online?

Let’s first get an understanding of what this actually means.

What is mobile-first indexing anyway?

Let’s break this down into some key areas.

A good way to try and explain this is to look back at technology and how we used it about ten or more years ago. 

Back then people mainly had desktop PCs and laptops to access the internet. People were starting to use smartphones and tablets more with the release of the first iPhone in 2007 and iPad in 2010. 

However, if you wanted to get online the vast majority of people used a traditional PC or Mac.

So at the time, Google was fine to rank all websites based on how a website worked on a PC as that was the main way of browsing. 

Fast forward to today and how people now browse the internet has changed. Most people now have smart devices including phones and tablets and use these daily to get online, more so than sitting in front of a PC.

In the last quarter of 2019 a recent Statista report has shown that 52.6% of all internet traffic came from mobile devices, which was up from 31% a few years before.

It’s also predicted that by 2025, 72.6% of people will solely use smart devices to access the internet. 

Man accessing the internet via a smart phone

But what has this got to do with mobile-first indexing?

As technology developed, it increased our mobile device usage to get online. We’re at a point now where more people access the internet on smaller device screens than ever before.

Google predicted this shift long ago and set about changing how it crawls a website. Google’s primary goal is to offer the best results in searches. 

As such websites need to work the best on mobile devices first rather than on larger screens such as a PC.

So if your website performs well on smaller device screens and offers a great user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), then you’re all good. 

However, if your website was built some time ago, chances are it’s not mobile-friendly, which Google will pick up on, which may impact your rankings.

How to know if your website is ready for mobile-first indexing:

Below are 5 simple tips that you can use to evaluate whether your website works great on mobile devices.

If it doesn’t, then these are some steps that you can take to change your website.

If your website is really old and not built with the primary focus on mobile-first indexing then you will have to look to get your website redesigned from scratch.

1) The speed of your website on mobile plays a role

If you think about how mobile devices work, they basically either connect to the internet via wifi or through 3G or 4G. Although 5G will be coming very soon. 

What this means is that people connect to the internet through various means on their smart devices. Many won’t see a difference using their own wifi when browsing the web in terms of how fast a web page loads. 

However, 3G and 4G can still be a bit patchy depending on the signal so may take longer to view a website.

So what this means is that you need to try and make sure that your website is as fast as possible so it loads quickly on mobile.

There are a many online tools to check the speed of your website such as Pingdom, GTmetrix or PageSpeed Insights by Google.

There are also a number of things that you can look at to speed your website up such as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Progressive Web Apps (PWA), however, these can be fairly complicated for most website owners, so you’ll need to get a professional web design company in. 

If your website is already fast enough anyway then you won’t see much benefit from doing the above. 

If your site is slow then you could also look at these website speed improvements that you can make, again a lot are very technical.

Woman holding a tablet with a fast internet speed

2) Focus on the content to improve your website for mobile-first indexing

Even if your website is mobile responsive already there are some areas that you could improve to make it more userfriendly on a mobile device. 

Dropdown or accordion menus can be great on mobile.

As space is limited on a small device screen a drop-down menu can really help by hiding information, only revealing it when the visitor wants to. Google has said that sites doing this won’t get penalised.

You could also remove none essential parts of your website on mobile.

A great tip is to look at your website on various devices and think about whether it’s easy to navigate and a pleasure to use.

If not, look to fix any issues!

3) Decide whether to use pops on mobile

Whether you love to use pops on your website or not, they can be annoying for a visitor, especially on mobile. 

If you do use them as lead generation tactic then think carefully if you have them on your site on mobile.

Their small screen sizes can make them fiddly to navigate anyway so throwing up extra boxes can get super annoying.

4) Remove Adobe Flash elements from your website if you have them.   

This is for a number of reasons. Apple devices don’t allow for Flash to work and with 20% of all smartphone users globally in 2019 Q4 having it on can cause an issue for users.

Which in turn, Google may respond to in a negative way in regards to your website rank on mobile searches. 

In addition to that Google has announced that by the end of this year Chrome will no longer support Flash. 

So having it on your website is becoming a big NO NO. 

5) Padding, taping and text size

One of the biggest differences between viewing a website on a mobile device compared to a PC is the size of the screen.

With a PC you mainly will use a mouse to navigate (touch screens aside), however on mobile this will be done with a finger or a stylus. 

This leads us on to website padding and the use of tap targeting.

If you can imagine that using a finger to click elements on a mobile for instance, if a website isn’t built correctly for mobile there is a chance that you could accidentally click the wrong thing. 

Ensure that elements that are clickable on your website aren’t too close together as it leads to bad user experience. 

Google and other search engines will pick up on this and flag it up as a mobile indexing issue of elements being close together. 

In addition, the size of your text on mobile should be legible if your text is super tiny, again this causes issue for a user and Google.

Summary:

Google mobile-first indexing is about to complete and is here to stay, so ensure that your website works amazingly well on mobile devices as a priority.

If it doesn’t, as time goes by it will have a major impact your business as slowly you will lose ranking, user numbers and ultimately your sales.

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