A little while back I wrote an article about Google’s intent to start using mobile-first indexing, something that they’ve disclosed a little earlier the same week. What it essentially means is that Google will now crawl and index your mobile site primarily and it is going to provide them with data and snippets used in the search results.
This change won’t be rolling out to all the users instantly. Instead, Google will slowly test it to see how it goes. However, their developers are confident that this will allow them to display more accurate results so it’s only a matter of time until mobile-first indexing becomes global.
In my last article, I focused on how to write mobile-friendly content, completely neglecting to make sure that you’re prepared for this transition as a whole. Well, I came to my senses! Now that it’s fairly obvious that Google will be placing more and more emphasis on mobile friendly content, everyone who has been slow in adapting to it has to pick up their pace.
Today, smartphones are beasts. Such large elements no longer have too much bearing on the site, at least from the perspective of what the devices can handle. GoogleBot wants to see the same things that your users are seeing so it can categorize and recognize your content. Make sure your mobile site is not blocking or hiding those elements – they’re extremely important for your ranking.
It’s all about the Speed!
Google aims at ‘less than half a second loading time’, at least according to their own Meile Ohye. Ain’t nobody have time for waiting around, as the popular YouTube video would say. Your users expect to see content fast and they won’t be sitting around on their thumbs waiting for it. Neither will Google. This video about site performance from Google Webmasters explains the whole thing in detail.
- Streamline your code – bloated code will make your site load slower. Make sure you take out all the unnecessary characters without jeopardizing code’s functionality.
- Reduce image size – large images may look nice, but only on a large screen. They are completely unnecessary on hand-held devices. Make sure you optimize and reduce the size of your images drastically. If you have a WordPress size you can do it in bulk by using one of these image optimization plugins.
- Cut down on redirects – with redirects, your site will reload multiple times and that is going to cause speed issues.
The most important thing here is that all your on-page elements are accounted for. Google uses them to ‘read’ your page and decide whether or not it’s a close fit to searchers intent. So pay close attention to your headlines, make sure your meta-descriptions are precisely crafted and engaging, use H2 and H3 tags where appropriate, add descriptions to your images, and generally do your best to help GoogleBot recognize the true value of your content and your site. These things maybe seem simple and small but every little bit is part of a bigger whole – if you do them right, it’s those little elements that will eventually push you over the top.
Design for Mobile
…or risk the wrath of your users. If you apply desktop design principles to your mobile site you’re going to run into a lot of problems. Design influences your ranking because it influences how users interact with your page. Those interactions, in turn, influence their satisfaction with the page and whether or not they stick around. This is a huge signal for Google.
- Eliminate popups – seriously, I don’t think that I even have to go in-depth about this. Popups are extremely annoying for people searching for stuff on their smartphone. I’m all for lead generation but leave that for the desktop. On your mobile site eliminate popups completely and you will drastically decrease your bounce rate.
- Eliminate Flash – add extra elements with HTML 5 or Java. A lot of users can see Flash elements on your page and they will be greeted by a gaping hole that’s neither useful nor pretty to look at.
- Keep ‘the finger’ in mind – and not the finger you’re thinking of, either. People use their fingers to navigate on their smartphones. Accidental taps and clicks on elements that are crowding a mobile version of your site can be frustrating so make sure that your design is clean and finger-friendly.
Brick & Mortars – Think Local
If you own a brick and mortar store your mobile site is a perfect opportunity to drive foot traffic to it. Just take a look at these numbers – 50% of customers who searched for a local store on their smartphone visited the same store within one day! Those people are ready to buy! Increase your visibility on mobile by adding different elements to your site such as neighborhood, city, and state in your URL, headlines, H1 tags, alt tags, content, and meta-description. Also, make sure to reference your business’ name, address and phone number multiple times on your page, where appropriate (be mindful of overkill, though).
Now, you might be thinking that there is plenty of time to implement these changes. After all, Google is not rolling mobile-first indexing just yet, right? Wrong! I’m urging you to start taking care of this as soon as possible – you need your mobile site in working condition as soon as possible because there is no indication when this change is going to go global. If you snooze, you lose and now is the perfect time to start taking care of the ins and outs of your mobile site so you’re ready to go once these changes start taking effect.