When you search for “ice cube” in Google, how does it know if you’re looking for the frozen state of water or the infamous rapper-turned-actor? Search engines like Google often index webpages based on their relevant keywords and thus, show websites most suited to your needs. However, since July 1, 2019, Google has moved from desktop-based indexing to mobile-first indexing for all new websites. This means that when indexing web pages, Google would prioritize mobile versions of websites rather than desktop versions. If you own a website that you’re looking to drive traffic into, it’s important to ensure that your website’s desktop and mobile versions have the same level of content. This article delves a little bit deeper into the topic and shows how you can use mobile-first indexing for your benefits.
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What Mobile-First Indexing Means
Mobile-first indexing is exactly what the name suggests. It means that when Google indexes websites to rank them for search results, the mobile version of your website is the baseline that is used to determine your position.
Mobile-first, however, does not mean it is mobile-only. For example, a website without a mobile version will still have its desktop version indexed. But the lack of a mobile-friendly version could hurt its rankings. Mobile users make up a large part of Internet traffic nowadays, so having your content optimized for both desktop and mobile can greatly boost your website’s performance.
Another thing creates confusion amongst developers and entrepreneurs is what this mobile-first index indicates. Does that mean mobile versions have a separate index than desktop ones? The answer is no. There is no separate mobile-based index. Instead what this means is that Google will still show desktop-friendly versions to desktop users, and mobile-friendly versions to mobile users – but when it comes to ranking your sites, the mobile versions would be the ones used.
For example, if the different versions of your website have different URLs – such as www.fraktal.com and m.fraktal.com – the “m” version would be the one used for rankings. If your mobile content is wanting compared to your desktop content, this can impact your ranking negatively.
Why It Matters To You
As stated, mobile users are increasing every day. Cellphones are a great source of convenience, and many people prefer to use phones to browse the web than using bulky computers. The introduction of mobile-first indexing is definitely causing a shift in the web development industry, and it’s not too late to be ahead of the curve.
Having a more optimized mobile version does not only improve your rankings but also provides your visitors with a great web experience. It makes your website responsive to your customers, and simplified enough for them to navigate it. And if you prioritize designing your mobile version first, you’d already have a functional site running. All you need to do is add more fillers for your desktop content, and you’re good to go!
Thinking Mobile-First: What You Can Do
Shift your mindset
Although Google’s mobile-first indexing only applies to new sites, for now, it’s only a matter of time until this becomes the norm. Old websites would do well to prepare for this beforehand too. This means that you need to develop mobile-based thinking as well. It’s important to train your team and test the content of your website for cellphones, and then worry about your desktop version.
Create a Responsive Web Design
Responsive web design refers to the design of a web page such that it sends the same HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) code, the primary web development language used, to all devices. Responsive web design also means the use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), a programming language concerned with presentation, to alter the rendering of your page in different devices. This allows Google’s algorithm to automatically detect your content when their web crawlers navigate through your page.
Optimize Your Design for Mobile
You need to ensure that your site’s design looks smart on cellphones. If you have a lot of information to display, you can use drop-down menus to organize them. Google’s bots will still able to crawl them and rank you accordingly.
For your content, make sure to keep your headlines shorter and fonts bigger – so that they are more visible in small screens. This is easy on the eyes for users, and also cuts out unnecessary junk from your website. If your site contains multimedia, make sure to use HTML5 or Java, which are more mobile-friendly than Flash, which is to be discontinued after 2020 anyway.
Manage Your Content
If your site’s content on the desktop and mobile versions do not match, there are chances that the mobile version will come up short. Google will index based on your mobile version, which means that your rankings can be affected negatively. Therefore, you need to make sure that the content in both mobile and desktop versions of your website are consistent. This can be done might creating identical meta tags, and the use of mobile URLs on your mobile.
There are several URL testing tools available online for you to use. For example, Google’s URL Inspection Tool can check both desktop and mobile versions directly, and provide information on the version that Google indexed.
Test Your Loading Speed
One of the most critical parts of your mobile website is its loading speed. Life runs on the fast lane, and even more so when it comes to Internet traffic. If your mobile site takes too long to load up, visitors may get impatient and leave. This will also influence Google’s algorithm to rank your site lower.
Know Where to Place Your Social Media Buttons
Your social media buttons should work to enhance your mobile site, not dominate it. Some mobile websites have large social media buttons that take over the whole screen, which can be irritating to visitors. Placing smaller buttons at the top or bottom of your page will not distract your audience and leave them happier.
Keep Your Desktop in Mind
Mobile-first means that Google will rank your page based on your mobile version, but this does not mean all traffic would come from it. A significant portion of the Internet population still prefer good old-fashioned desktops, and it’s important to ensure they have a positive experience as well.
To conclude, it is clear that mobile websites are growing and are making up much of the Internet traffic. The introduction of mobile-first indexing by Google means that there would be an even greater shift in the way websites are developed. Therefore, mobile versions are not to be taken lightly anymore. Through proper development and testing, you can develop a mobile-friendly version of your website. This will not only help you rank higher in Google’s index, but also make your web audience leave with happier experiences.