If you’re not mobile-first, you’re last.
Our smartphones dominate our lives, especially when it comes to shopping — and Google knows it. That’s why optimizing mobile websites is becoming more important than ever. Google recently announced that, starting July 1, mobile-first indexing will be the default for all new websites.
This is a follow-up to last year’s mobile-first indexing update, which was a major game-changer for SEO. In April 2018, Google began instituting the first major rollout of this update.
The goal of the mobile-first update was to accommodate increasing amounts of mobile traffic. Shoppers are also more likely to trust websites with well-developed mobile layouts, allowing Google to make this a good gauge of a site’s authority and credibility.
What does this update mean?
This latest update to the mobile-first index essentially dictates that new websites and domains will have their mobile websites crawled first. Google will crawl newly registered websites with its smartphone Googlebot, and refer to how mobile versions of those sites are structured in order to deliver relevant search results.
The upshot of this is that mobile users with shopping intent will have an easier time finding the products they need.
It’s important to note that mobile-first indexing goes by root domain, so if you are launching a new site soon, all your subdomains will be affected by this update along with it. And, if your new website isn’t well-optimized for mobile, your rankings could suffer.
So, what do you do?
The first step is to match your mobile and desktop sites, from content to navigation to product offering. By showing the same content to users on desktop and mobile devices, you’ll ensure your rankings don’t take a hit in this update.
Unfortunately, cross-referencing the desktop and mobile version of your website can be a tedious task. However, there are tools that can help you assess your website’s mobile usability.
- Search Console: Use the URL inspection tool in Google Search Console to run a live crawl of your website and render a screenshot of how Googlebot smartphone sees the page. You’ll be made aware of any errors in mobile rendering.
- Mobile-Friendly Test: Pop your URL into Google’s Mobile-Friendly test for a brief overview of your website’s mobile optimization, and what could be fixed.
Google also offers various resources on how to optimize your website for mobile-first indexing. Specifically, they recommend that websites be responsive, as opposed to having separate mobile URLs.
Perhaps the most detrimental (and most frequent) error some web owners make is burying too much content within menus. This can cause Googlebot smartphone to overlook relevant content, simply because it’s difficult to locate.
Mobile’s growing presence
These recent migrations to mobile-first indexing are a testament to mobile search’s growing importance. As of 2019, it’s estimated that 59% of e-commerce sales are made through mobile. According to Statista, this percentage is predicted to increase to 73% by 2021.
If you do plan to launch a new website after July 1 of this year, make sure you’ve analyzed its mobile usability and responsiveness first. By keeping your mobile users in mind, which will soon be the majority, you’ll be giving your rankings a healthy boost.