From 2016 onwards, mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time in internet history. And it has only continued to do so from then onwards. For this reason, Google announced its intention to implement a new mobile-first indexing process when it comes to its search results. Doing so, they stated, would make searches much more relevant for the growing majority audience of mobile users, rather than minority desktop users.
A shocking number of sites are barely optimized for desktop, let alone mobile. Which is why, when Google’s mobile index rollout hits fully, many small businesses may be surprised to find a sharp decline in traffic and SERP positioning. However, pre-emptive optimization now could prevent this from happening and may even improve your websites standing. Especially if this is a change you are making and your competitors are failing to do so, leaving you one step ahead.
With that in mind, what is mobile first exactly and why is it so important that you optimize your WordPress website to meet these changes from Google?
What Is Mobile First?
As of March 26, 2018, Google rolled out the first stage in its mobile-first index. This means that moving forward Google will create it’s search lists – which many people and companies want to be at the top of – based on the mobile version of content. This even includes the search results for those on a desktop as well. This means that, from now on, websites will need to have a responsive mobile site with optimized content in order to rank well in SERPs.
But, I hear cried from the back, what if you don’t have a mobile version of your website? Well, then Google states that it will continue to rank your website based on this version of your site. However, there are those that are very concerned that not having a mobile version of a site – or a mobile responsive site – will be penalized in search results as a result.
Time will tell if this is the case. However, it is clearly vital to make changes now that will positively affect your mobile site rather than do nothing and be penalized for it later.
Test Your Site
Not really sure if your site is optimized for mobile? Don’t worry, there are plenty of online tools which you can use to find out whether your site is mobile optimized and even how fast it loads. Try Google’s own PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom to see how fast your site runs and whether or not it is optimized for mobile.
Using these tools you can measure how much work you need to do. But, also, you will be able to test after your implemented changes and see if you have had a positive effect on site speed and mobile optimization.
Faster Site Speed
Site speed is one of the biggest factors when it comes to mobile optimization. Luckily, there are a number of tactics you can employ when it comes to speeding up your mobile site (many of which are simple enough that you don’t need to be a web developer). Most relevant to mobile first changes include:
The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project is an incentive which was begun with the aim of improving the overall mobile landscape. Using a pared-down HTML, AMP enables you to load web pages at a much faster pace than typical HTML. Your content is also cached in Google’s own cache which speeds up load time. All of which, leads to a faster UX and improved search visibility overall.
There are actually plenty of plugins that do this, it’s just a case of finding one that works best for your site!
Progressive Web Apps are an alternative to AMP with a few additional perks that might appeal to your site. Including the fact that it loads instantly, responds quickly to user clicks, and engages well as an immersive user experience. More info on this can be found directly on Google’s developer’s website. This isn’t necessarily something you can implement yourself, but if you have a developer or an interest in this then you will certainly find it useful for speeding up your site.
Images are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to bringing your site speed down, which means that compressing images, in all honesty, is your easiest site speed win. Things can’t be easier to make sure every image on your WordPress site is compressed without losing quality and not impeding your user’s overall site experience.
Mobile site speed is an important aspect of being ready for Google’s mobile-first index, but you should also consider some changes to your content as well. Particularly, you need to understand user behavior and preferences as well as the necessary solutions in order to improve UX when it comes to content.
Hallmarks of good content optimization for mobile sites include:
- Flexible text and images.
- Design changes to ensure usability for mobile users – i.e. more white space.
- Create a dedicated mobile menu.
- Keep text in short, easy to digest paragraphs, for quick reading on mobile.
- Use lists and bullet points where possible – just like this!
At the end of the day, you will probably be writing for mobile users already and not even realize it. If not, however, it is important to adopt these content changes now. After all, Google is now judging your first and foremost on your mobile content, so having it as optimized and user-friendly as possible is guaranteed to help your rankings!
In order for your site to be mobile first, you need to become so in the first instance rather than simply reactive to Google’s changes. Instead of making changes to suit Google, you need to implement well-optimized mobile content across your site and continually check the user experience on your mobile site. Mobile first does not only require a change to your site, but also a change in overall mindset to ensure your continued positions in SERPs.
Regular tweaks to improve user experience may seem tedious and time-consuming. But, in the long run, it can do wonders for both your Google rankings and in order to keep visitors on your site for longer and even convert them more easily.
One way you might choose to navigate this is through hiring an app developer to create a version of your site specifically designed for mobile users. This can mean a tailored mobile version of your site, which can be built with mobile UX in mind above all else. Of course, this also means maintaining two versions of your site – mobile and desktop – and so it depends on how much effort or time you have to invest in this. LinkedIn has a great search function that will help you find app developers that are the right fit for your project. Once you’ve found a few developers that interest you, use an email finder tool to get their email addresses. Then, reach out to them about the opportunity to work together on your project.
Fast, fast, fast is the order of the day when it comes to preparing your website for Google’s new mobile-first incentive. If your site loads less than instantaneously, then you will be penalized by both the user and Google as a result.
It may take a little work to get to this point, but ultimately you will see the benefit when your website manages to survive Google’s mobile rollout. Especially if you make these changes over your competitors, as this will certainly give you a leg up on them. Always a bonus!
Zack Halliwell is a writer in the business and marketing niche. When not working, he can be found on a scenic walk with his black labrador, Batman. You can connect with him on Twitter @ZackHalliwell.
Photo by rawpixel.com via Unsplash