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What Is Mobile First and Why Is it Important?

What Is Mobile First and Why Is it Important?

Late in March 2018, Google announced a gradual and continuous rollout of the Mobile First Indexing update on their indexing algorithm. Google insists that this update is geared towards giving mobile users a better user experience as the volume of mobile traffic grows exponentially every year. But what is mobile first indexing all about, and how does it affect SERP ranking?

What Is Mobile First Indexing?

Historically, Google has always used desktop websites’ pages for web crawling, indexing, and ranking. To reflect the behaviour and trends of a majority of internet users, Google has now switched and prioritized indexing on mobile pages instead. More people prefer accessing Google via smartphones and tablets; if you analyze your site’s traffic, you will find that most cached pages and traffic logs point to mobile pages. This move should not be mistaken as mobile only indexing: if your site does not have a mobile subset, the indexing will still be done on the live desktop web pages.

How to Get the Most out of Mobile First Indexing

Using this indexing approach, Google is intuitively going to reward mobile-friendly sites with better search engine rankings, at least when it comes to mobile search results. With that in mind, it is high time to target mobile users through mobile optimization. Here are three essential tips on how to take advantage of mobile first indexing.

Invest in Responsive Design or Mobile Version

If you do not already have adaptive web pages or a dedicated mobile version of your site, develop one! Google will still index your site in this case, but the lack of a mobile-friendly version may seriously hurt your ranking on mobile platforms.

If your website is responsive or dedicated to mobile browsing, you have nothing to worry about, according to Google’s own guidelines. Most WordPress websites are safe in this aspect, since they incorporate responsive web design. Assuming you are happy with your current ranking with the mobile version of your site, there is nothing you need to change – for now.

Populate and Optimize Mobile Content

Many mobile sites are not exact copies of their desktop counterparts. Mobile websites are typically deprived of features and content, which is counterproductive with mobile first indexing in action. Content on mobile sites will not be treated any different from that on desktop sites. Google will rank the mobile site accordingly based on the quality, volume, and relevance of available content. This means you might drop in rankings on the more important mobile platform if you ignore content optimization on your mobile site.

Content management on mobile is a bit tricky due to the reduced display space and limited navigation. However, several smart techniques involving the site’s layout, structure and choice of content type make it easier to host and display volumes of content for the mobile user. Remember that mobile first indexing will crawl through content in hidden or collapsed tabs, as well as visible text and media.

Optimize Mobile UX and Interface

User experience is one of Google’s primary ranking factors. The first step in improving UX should be to optimize the underlying functionality and content performance for mobile users. Ensure that content presentation and page loading speeds are at acceptable levels on mobile devices. From there, you’ll need to make the interface not only aesthetically appealing, but also practical and easy to navigate. Accordion menus are a convenient choice for the user’s navigation and for displaying multiple features and content; Google actually recommends them. You may need to run a mobile-friendliness test to identify areas that need improvement on your site.

Mobile first indexing is a continuous process, and so far, only sites that are ready for it have been indexed. Google will notify you via the search console once your mobile site has been indexed. If you pay close attention to your mobile site and follow Google’s guidelines, you might be rewarded with better rankings on mobile search results.

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by Harvey Carr // Harvey Carr is a contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.