15/08/19 // Written by Emma Phillips

The real impact of Google’s mobile-first index

How attached are you to your mobile? According to research by Ofcom, 78% of all adults own a smartphone and 92% of Brits say using their mobile for web browsing is crucial. As Google continues its efforts to reflect user behavioural trends, the mobile-first indexing rollout was a logical and welcome step.  

Officially rolled out in July, take a read to find out our thoughts on the impact of this update and how it has been affecting websites.

What is mobile-first indexing?

Talk around Google’s mobile-first index began in 2015, beginning to be rolled out in early 2018 before being announced on 1 July 2019 as the default for new domains. Research by performance marketing platform, BrightEdge, revealed that not only is 57% of traffic now from smartphones and tablets, but mobile queries produced different rankings to desktop nearly 80% of the time. As a result of mobile usage increase, this new system sees crawling, indexing and ranking move from desktop page content to the mobile version first in order to improve search results on mobile.  

It’s over a month since the update, meaning the mobile version of your website will be considered the primary version of your website if it is recognised by Google as being mobile optimised. As for new domains created after 1 July, these websites will automatically default to mobile-first indexing.  

If you are wondering whether your website has already been switched to mobile-first indexing, you can find this out by using the URL Inspection Tool on Search Console. This tool identifies how your site was last crawled and indexed. Remember, it will only have been mobile-first indexed if Google views it as being mobile optimised. Even if your website hasn’t yet been indexed this way, mobile is becoming the preferred user platform and you should still consider how to optimise for it, something which Google has shared an article on.

What should you do once your website has switched to mobile-first indexing? 

As more consumers are using mobile devices to search, improving your mobile optimisation should be the priority if you want to continue driving organic visits. The switch is an opportunity; if you want to see higher conversion rates, this is the time to make sure you are offering your users a positive search experience equipped for mobile viewing.

Run a mobile-friendly test

Even if Google considers your website mobile optimised, you may not be 100 percent happy with the user experience it offers. Google provide a mobile-friendly test, simply enter the website URL you are wanting to test, and the results will tell you whether your website is mobile optimised or not, and what improvements can be made.  

A mobile-friendly test is a brilliant starting point, highlighting a website’s mobile responsiveness score. These tests usually pay attention to UX including text size and image quality, as well as taking into account page loading times, button sizes, social media links, pop-ups and many other features. The feedback can provide you with the foundations to make your website more mobile-friendly. In doing so, you will not only satisfy your users, but you may also see an improvement in your organic ranking.

Produce mobile-friendly content  

As your mobile site has essentially become more important to Google than your desktop site, it is crucial to ensure web content is optimised for mobile. If the pages of your website can’t be properly indexed, your rankings could suffer.  

The content you provide to your users should be nearly identical whether on mobile or desktop, it’s the way this content is presented that matters. Desktops have much bigger displays meaning more content can be shown on the screen at any one time. Chunking content is an effective method to make it more digestible for the user, but this doesn’t mean you have to reduce your content. Instead, break it down into more manageable sections and use features such as menus and headers to point your audience in the right direction.  

Additionally, reading from a mobile screen can be more difficult than reading from a desktop. It’s important that your content – this includes the text, photos, videos etc. too – are clear enough to be enjoyed on mobile.

Check your webpage load speed  

Today, speed matters. Most people use their mobiles on the move, they need quick access to the information they want which makes speed a necessity for a positive user experience. Google has another useful tool that evaluates your page speed. Pages with a longer load time usually have a higher bounce rate, but this isn’t just an important factor for your user experience, page speed is also one of the signals used by Google’s algorithm to rank webpages.   

As online competition increases, SEO optimisation and achieving high organic page rankings are more important than ever. Optimising your website for mobile is a relevant step to be taking in order to satisfy user’s developing needs. We are here to help when it comes to mobile-first indexing, and our team of experts can help advise your next steps.