5 Tips To Prepare for Google’s Mobile-First Index Rollout

Written by | Mobile Marketing

Is Your Mobile Site Ready for the Changes it Will Bring?

Quick! Where’s your smartphone? It’s virtually certain it’s no more than a foot away from you at any given time. That ubiquity perfectly encapsulates mobile’s omnipresence, underscoring its domination of search and media usage. It was therefore inevitable that Google would roll out a mobile-first index for sites. Intended to better reflect the customer experience, the new index treats mobile as the primary version of your website, ranking your mobile pages and data for search purposes. Website magazine offers five tips for integrated marketers who want to be ready for Google’s new index.

Wait… Backup. What’s This Index?
Google announced that in 2018 they would begin using the mobile version of a website’s content to rank its pages and data, and show the truncated content you see in your search results. Google’s web crawlers had focused on the desktop experience, but once mobile search surpassed desktop, it became clear that things would need to change. While a full rollout isn’t expected for a few months yet, it’s time to prepare. Sites with mobile experiences that match or exceed desktop shouldn’t see much of a difference, but those that have not been adapted for mobile are wise to heed the below advice.

  1. Optimize for the Small Screen – As with responsive design, it’s important to remember that on the smaller mobile screen, every element of design counts. Bear in mind the hallmarks of good user experience include ease-of-use, page load speed, navigation, and how to best mirror the desktop experience.
  2. Make It Fast – If a mobile site doesn’t load quickly, users move on. In fact, Google cautions that a mobile site shouldn’t take more than three seconds to load. To drive home the point, Google’s Webmaster Blog confirmed that in July a “Speed Update” will make page speed a ranking factor on mobile sites.
  3. No, Really, Mobile First – The new index is designed to behave like a mobile user, with the same standards for simple navigation, look and feel, and an intuitive interface. Consider your mobile customer experience. Are they finding what they want?
  4. Make Sure Mobile & Desktop Match – This may not be an issue for those who have already introduced responsive design, but it’s important that information is the same or as close as possible on each platform—especially your highest performing pages. The current indexing model looks at desktop content, so this shift could result in a loss of visibility or drops in traffic/conversions.
  5. Think Like the Customer – Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. How are the visuals? How do they navigate your site? Where do they go, and how do they get there? Be cautious about interrupting the customer; you have limited time and visual space and they could navigate away in frustration. Potential pitfalls include using Flash, and disruptive ads or pages. Consider text size, while insuring that the design is “finger friendly.”

Integrated marketers have seen these changes coming for some time, especially with the outsized growth of mobile over the last few years. When paired with the increased emphasis on customer experience and the customer journey, it was a matter of time before these types of guidelines became standard for all sites.

Last modified: February 16, 2018

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