This is an article “Why You Should Focus on Mobile-First Indexing From Now On” by Marc Primo Warren
This year, search engine giant Google confirmed plans to roll out its ‘mobile-first indexing’ algorithm feature after pushing the major update back a few months. While not many marketers know what the update is all about yet, it certainly is something worth preparing for in terms of boosting your search engine optimization (SEO) strategies as it is expected to be a big game-changer.
With a huge 56% of online users choosing to use mobile smartphones over laptops and desktops for their online search inquiries and purchases, it’s not as surprising for Google to release such a dedicated update. Mobile-first indexing is defined by the company as a process wherein its search algorithms will give priority to mobile site versions for indexing and ranking content. It doesn’t mean that we’ll soon bid goodbye to desktop content when it comes to evaluating page relevance for search intents. However, it will do marketers good to up the ante on their mobile content game if they want to get higher Google ranking scores as the majority of search queries are entered via mobile devices.
How mobile-first indexing evolved
As we all know, Google is about user experience, and with today’s strong mobile user base, focusing on mobile-first indexing is the obvious next step in SEO. However, this search strategy isn’t new at all and there have been numerous updates that intend to boost rankings based on mobile content and user experience. It just so happens that this year’s update is one of the biggest changes in terms of desktop versus mobile indexing in that the update will focus on mobile sites by 100% and will remove desktop-only sites for its SEO indexing reviews.
Among the key updates that have already been implemented by Google in past years since it announced the strategy in 2016 are mobile-first indexing for websites in 2018; primary versions and default for websites in 2019; and the full mobile-first indexing rollout this year.
How will mobile-first indexing factors affect business SEO
Since Google will now implement a 100% mobile-first indexing strategy for its SEO reviews, businesses in eCommerce or those engaged in business-to-business (B2B) will have to make content management and SEO changes in their mobile sites. In past years, it was logical for such businesses to focus on desktop content since most of their target users were in offices. With the global health crisis affecting the way we use gadgets for online access, smartphones emerged as everyone’s go-to device for work and play.
As mentioned earlier, this doesn’t mean that businesses have to shelve their desktop content management and user interface and experience (UI/UX) upgrades but rather make it more mobile-friendly. Otherwise, traffic to their sites will surely fall or will be nowhere within Google’s ranking pages.
What you should do
Considering these impacts, industries should make the proper adjustments in their organic search strategies moving forward.
This SEO checklist will certainly help your business maintain or even boost your mobile traffic once we all shift to mobile-first indexing:
Maintain your consistency across devices
Keeping your sites flexible for various devices and maintaining a responsive web design is the more cost-efficient way than rebuilding your UI and UX elements for mobile. Today, around 70% of websites are now applying responsive design elements on their websites and soon every business will be joining the bandwagon.
Of course, many would think that switching to mobile content may mean weaker traction with lesser on-page SEO than desktop websites. However, you can still include call-to-action features such as ‘read more’ buttons or drop-down tabs for your mobile content that will engage more users. After all, people prefer fewer things to read in this fast-paced world. Being direct and methodical in your responsive web design elements for mobile within your homepage can engage more users, while giving them the options to go over other landing pages or to expand the page which, in turn, will give you higher SEO leverage.
Always allow Google access to your mobile site
As an extension of the first step, ensuring that you use the same meta robot tags from your desktop sites to your mobile sites is important. Some developers miss this step which completely blocks mobile sites from being crawled and can deny Google access to read your content or send traffic and conversions.
Check your ‘noindex’ and ‘nofollow’ tags to maintain user and external site interactions and avoid blocking other pages from being crawled to your robots.txt files, which convey which pages or files search engine crawlers can request commands from while still avoiding overloading.
Meta robot tags allow you to use a granular and exact page approach when you manage how your individual pages will be indexed and displayed on Google search results. Place your tags in the head section of your pages so that Google can easily discover them.
Be meticulous in your graphic design
You’ll have to adjust your site images, videos, and other graphic elements when you shift to mobile. Optimizing your mobile-first indexing elements means upgrading the user’s experience via high-quality images and videos, as well as clearer, more cohesive content.
On your product pages, display beauty shots and accompanying details for user appreciation. This will increase their onsite spending time and can influence them to make purchases within your site. Only use supported image formats such as BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, and SVG but never JPG images inside inline SVG files as Google can’t index those types.
Allow Google to access additional information about your images by providing hidden URLs on your image sitemap. This allows your site to use content delivery networks so you can host your mobile site images. Make sure you also verify your networks’ domain names on the Search Console for crawl error reports from Google.
For your video files, retain your URLs with every page load as frequent changes may affect your page’s organic performance. Place your videos in visible spaces within the page area so you can further optimize your mobile site.
Lastly, ensure that your mobile and desktop sites share the same structured data and correct link paths for higher consistency in Google’s algorithms.
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