By Scott Zimmerman, Digital Marketing Specialist at Walker Sands
Now that the tenth anniversary of the iPhone has come and gone (with a new gadget that fans and detractors alike can obsess over), it’s hardly necessary to wax poetic about how much the iPhone has changed the way we consume content across every vertical. And now that mobile and tablet searches account for more than 60 percent of Google queries, it’s changing the way we seek out and access information.
Google’s response to this is Mobile First Indexing. While Google’s search algorithms currently prioritize the desktop version of web content, they will make moves towards algorithms that focus on mobile content first. Even though Google is currently testing mobile-first indexing in a small percentage of live search results, Google webmasters have indicated that the change will happen on a rolling basis as each site is upgraded to be more mobile-friendly. For businesses striving to optimize the user experience, perfect SEO and other technical strategies, it has major implications.
Of course, it’s impossible to understand the exact algorithms Google uses, and SEOs that worry too much about “beating the system” will do their users a disservice. As you prepare for the shift to Mobile-First, remember that any algorithm Google adjusts is to the same end goal as yours: making life easier for your users. That said, don’t make these critical mistakes when preparing for Mobile-First
That said, don’t make these critical mistakes when preparing for Mobile-First
Slow Down Your Users
Users don’t like slow websites. And mobile users especially don’t like them — in fact, more than half will abandon a web page if it takes a mere three seconds of loading time. While it’s intuitive that users prefer speedy websites, slow load times can have more drastic consequences to your business than you might expect. For example, a mobile page that loads in 9 seconds risks losing about 28 percentof total potential visitors, according to Google’s Test My Site tool.
Twenty-eight percent of total users is a hefty amount of potential leads to lose forever. If you’re offering an excellent product or service, it’s a waste to lose out on customers just because your mobile website loads too slowly. Fortunately, there a few fixes that can make a world of difference.
First, understand where you’re at with PageSpeed, using the tools Google already provides. Google’s PageSpeed Insights can analyze your digital presence and identify the factors that are slowing you down. Often, simple solutions like compressing large images and utilizing browser caching can immediately reduce load times.
Put Mobile on the Backburner
Beyond Page Speed, you need to look at your mobile experience in general. If you’re delivering a subpar mobile website, you’re already feeling the consequences — and they’ll only multiply with the upcoming change.
Ideally, your website is already responsive (one that presents the essentially the same content to users, whether they’re viewing from a laptop or a phone). A separate mobile experience often leads to disparities between sites and increased effort on your end to maintain, so there’s little reason to go without a responsive website. That said, even currently responsive sites aren’t off the hook.
Ensure that important content on your desktop that might have been excluded from even a responsive mobile site is visible. For example, structured data elements like on-page user reviews might have been hidden previously, but are golden on the search engine results page (SERP). Once mobile-first begins, these elements won’t appear unless they exist on your mobile site.
Neglect the User Journey
Your site, whether mobile or desktop, should never be designed without a solid understanding of the user journey that informs its every aspect. And mobile navigation presents different challenges than a desktop version of a site, since phones provide limited screen space. That means streamlined but equivalent navigation is even more crucial, especially once the mobile-shift happens.
What are users coming to your site for? Quick purchases? Product research? Even B2B buyers in a potentially lengthy buyer journey will be accessing your site from mobile devices, so you need to ensure that your mobile experience provides the same usability that your desktop provides.
Whatever your users need (quick download links for whitepapers and other resources, or just an easy checkout process), design your mobile site to reflect these use cases.
It’s easy to get caught up in Google’s rapidly changing world, and adjusting to new algorithms and features can be difficult. But it’s important to remember: your users come first. If you remember this, your website should naturally accumulate search authority, and your business will reap the rewards.