Every Business Owner’s Guide To Google's Mobile-First Indexing

Google, the world's largest search engine, has started rolling out mobile-first indexing earlier in 2018. This initiative is in response to the massive number of mobile web users that has surpassed the desktop web users. With mobile-indexing, Google uses the mobile version of your pages for indexing and ranking. There are various techniques to make indexable pages that can place top spots in Google search results. You can explore responsive designs, boost page speed, and improve overall customer experience.

Why mobile-friendly site?

how to prepare for mobile first index
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Why should your business have a mobile-friendly site? A huge majority of the five billion web users across the globe use their mobile phones. These handheld devices, specifically smartphones, hold 52% of web traffic compared to 43% by computers (desktops and laptops). Tablets hold about 4% of the traffic. Phones are cheaper and more mobile than other similar electronic devices.

A mobile-friendly site can help convert your site visitors into customers. According to studies, about 81% of consumers browse the web for products and services before buying. The Internet has made it easier to compare and contrast, and make better buying decisions. More than 60% of smartphone users have bought an item or service online using their phone in the last six months.

What is a responsive web design?What is a responsive web design? (RWD)

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A mobile-friendly site has a responsive web design (RWD), which is “a setup where the server always sends the same HTML code to all devices and CSS is used to alter the rending of the page on the device.” Simply, it allows each page to adjust or respond to different gadgets. Your visitors will see all the pertinent information they needs regardless of the electronic device used.
Related: Voice-Assisted Search: The Future of Internet Queries (Infographic)
An RWD makes it easier to share your info by using the same web address. It accommodates Google’s crawling process, or the process in which Googlebot visits each page of your site before indexing. Moreover, it cuts down load time and lowers bounce rate. "Responsive sites don't really need to worry about the mobile first index (updates)". said Gary Illyes from Google.

For samples of RWD, you may visit the fluid and flexible visuals of Dropbox, the tailored user experience of Klientboost, and simple yet functional design of Slack.

Are you using separate URLs?

Responsive sites use the same URL across devices. However, there are instances when businesses use separate URLs for desktop or laptop access and mobile phones. Separate URLs use different codes for different devices and on separate URLs. Google advises that mobile users on desktop URL should be redirected to the appropriate mobile URL.

Make sure your site does not have any faulty redirects by using Google Search Console. This will debug your site of any incorrect redirects. Set up your server to redirect phone users to the proper mobile URL. Finally, you can always shift to RWD, or a uniform URL, to ensure quality user experience across devices.

If you do not have a mobile site yet, make sure users remain on the desktop page. Do not redirect them to an error page.

Page speed, bounce rate, and a mobile-friendly site

Web users want mobile-friendly sites with fast page speed. Earlier studies suggest that a web user waits for only 6 seconds for a page to load before abandoning the site. But with more sites improving user experience, users can only tolerate a 2- to 3-second wait time on a page.
Also Read: The Evolution of Local Search (infographic)
Google underscored that page speed is a key element of an RWD. In July 2018, the search engine leader announced that page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches. Google said that the update will apply “the same standard to all pages,” regardless of how the page was built. You can use free tools to evaluate the speed performance of your site such as Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights.

A slow-loading site means a higher bounce rate and, ultimately, weaker business. Bounce rate is the rate of visitors who abandon a site after viewing one page. This, of course, is relevant if your site has more than one page. A bounce rate of 40% and lower is considered excellent, 41% to 55% is average, 56% to 70% is higher than average, and higher than 70% as disappointing. How to achieve and maintain an “excellent” rating? Optimize your website by making it mobile-friendly.

Only viewable content on your web pagesAll you need to know about Google's Mobile First Index

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Countless of businesses are on the web. The Internet has democratized marketing by allowing various business types and sizes the opportunity to reach out to their target audience and beyond, using the same platforms. This translates to trillions of pages vying for top spots on search results. With a mobile-friendly site, you can boost your ranking chances.

An RWD does not mean that every page is an exact duplicate across devices. Some design elements and content may be easily viewable on desktops and laptops, but not via phones. Unplayable Flash videos, for an instance, disallows crawling. These can also be disappointing for web users. You or your web developer should be able to deliver pertinent content in formats supported in all devices. For animated content, you can opt for HTML5; use video-embedding playable in desktops, phones and tablets; and consider putting up the transcript of videos for those using assistive browsing technologies or accessing your site using browsers that cannot play video formats.

Bonus infographic for visual learners:
Preparing For Google’s Mobile First Index [INFOGRAPHIC]
Source: SEO Discovery.

What is the impact of mobile-first indexing to your business? First, it will encourage you to rethink your perception on having an online presence. Creating a website is not enough. It must project the type of reliable business that you manage, responsive to the needs of your customers. Second, this initiative will remind you to prioritize user experience. A mobile-friendly site is responsive to the growing demand for easier and faster exchange of information, and better flow of commerce. Finally, mobile-first indexing will allow you to maximize your digital marketing initiatives to improve your bottom line. Mobile-friendliness is your key to online users willing to spend serious money.

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