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Mobile-First Indexing Is Here – Are You Ready?

It’s the end of March, a time to look forward to spring and start emerging from the pandemic. But it’s also when Google’s mobile-first indexing algorithm comes into play.

If your website isn’t optimised for mobile then you could see a drop in your traffic from organic Google search.

What is Google’s new mobile-first indexing shift all about?

As the name suggests Google will now only be indexing websites based on their mobile experience.

Scheduled for release in September 2020, Google pushed the release back to March 2021 due to the pandemic.
They stated: “It’s not always easy to focus on work as otherwise, so we’ve decided to extend the (algorithm) timeframe to the end of March 2021.”

For years mobile has dominated device market share, yet Google has prioritised desktop for search engine results. But with the highest share in organic mobile search traffic (54%) Google is now mounting the pressure onto website developers.

What do I need to do to prepare for mobile-first indexing?

It’s time to ask yourself some questions:

  1. Does your website provide a good experience on mobile?
  2. Is it scoring well in mobile optimisation tests? How on earth can you tell?
  3. What should you do if your site isn’t mobile optimised?

How can I tell if my website provides a good mobile experience?

Whilst this might sound quite self-explanatory, we’re amazed at how many people don’t do the following step/check.

Visit your website on a mobile device on a few different mobile devices. You can use emulators but these don’t give a true reflection of how your website looks to your end user and it’s functionality.

But this only ensures you’re giving your end user a good experience, which whilst important, won’t meet Google’s criteria. Google are looking for true mobile optimisation, not just a website being mobile friendly.

What’s the difference between a mobile-friendly and mobile-optimised website?

  • A mobile-friendly website is one that looks good on a mobile device and provides a good user experience.
  • A mobile-optimised website has a true responsive-mobile design. Instead of content shrinking or rearranging for smaller screens the content actually resizes for multiple screens, orientations and resolutions. It provides users with as good an experience on a mobile device as they would receive on a desktop.

Is my website mobile-optimised?

We always check our score on Google’s Page Insights – a free report based on analysis provided by Lighthouse. This provides a simplified view of the things Google feels are important.

This report will provide you with two scores for your website, one of mobile and one for desktop. You want your score to be in the green, or at the very least high yellow.

At Kachi Marketing we run this review on our website with every single change we make to see how we’re impacting or improving on our score. We amend one page, review our score and then it we like what we see we replicate the amend onto other pages as necessary.

My Google Page Insight Score is low for mobile – how can I fix this?

You won’t be alone, we’ve seen some major brands who have some shocking mobile scores – some which might surprise you!

Apple mobile score 48 (12 March 2021)
Apple mobile score 48 (12 March 2021)
Cadbury mobile score 40 (23 March 2021)
Cadbury mobile score 40 (23 March 2021)
Coca-Cola mobile score 6 (23 March 2021)
Coca-Cola mobile score 6 (23 March 2021)
Nestlé mobile score 19 (23 March 2021)
Nestlé mobile score 19 (23 March 2021)
Nike mobile score 19 (23 March 2021)
Nike mobile score 19 (23 March 2021)
The Ticket Factory mobile score 9 (12 March 2021)
The Ticket Factory mobile score 9 (12 March 2021)
Walkers mobile score 44 (23 March 2021)
Walkers mobile score 44 (23 March 2021)

Before we move on, if you work for one of the above brands, please know that this isn’t a sleight. We’ve worked in large brands, we understand how difficult and time consuming it can be to get a website redesigned or tweaked. But do let us know if you are looking for digital marketing help or advice – feel free to reach out for a chat 😉

There are a few things you can check – or ask your web support team to check.

Images

  • Are your images resized for mobile?
  • Can you do better? For example: Provide a different size image for each device type (though ensure they are still of good quality)

Content Formation

  • Whilst we all love content, and content is king – is it written with your viewer in mind
  • Content heavy websites with long paragraphs or sentences – are making it difficult for mobile users to wade through
  • Make more use of bullet points or amend your sentence structure for mobile users – so it’s easily scannable
  • Avoid lazy loading on primary content. For example: If you have ten images on your page but only two load on mobile due to lazy loading, they won’t load from the server until the user clicks on the + icon. As a result the Googlebot won’t see those images. For more help on this you can read Google’s lazy-loading best practice guide
  • Check your heading and alt tags are consistent across desktop and mobile, and that they are meaningful

Content Quantity

  • Mobile and desktop sites don’t have to look exactly the same or have the same content
  • But if you do differentiate it’s imperative that you ensure:
    • All primary content serves to all users
    • Any keywords or content you want to rank for on Google search is on your mobile site
  • Remove content that is superfluous to the user’s experience

Site speed

  • Do you have any unnecessary plug-ins or code that is delaying your initial site load?
  • Is your website host quick enough? If not think about moving to a new hosting platform.

My company has an older m-dot site for mobile users – what is the impact for us?

Firstly to explain for those not familiar with m-dot websites. These are sites hosted on a separate domain e.g. m.kachi.marketing. They were common in the early to mid 2000’s as an early adoption to mobile user experience.

Google says their shift to mobile-first indexing means they can’t guarantee serving your desktop website to a desktop user. So they might need to direct them to your m-dot website. Is it now time to get rid of your old m-dot website and work on a new responsive mobile-first website design.

John Mueller from Google says: “One of the things around mobile first indexing that sometimes pops up, especially if you’re working on larger or older sites that have kind of the m-dot setup…When it comes to mobile-first indexing, this makes things a lot trickier. So we can process these but what will happen is we will only index the m-dot version of the site and it can happen that we show the m-dot version of the site in the desktop search results.

Usually we try to show the appropriate version, desktop or mobile version, in the search results, the URL at least. The indexed content is… only the mobile version. But with m-dot sites it can sometimes happen that we just have the m-dot version where we didn’t actually pick up that there’s a connection to a desktop version here. This is a lot more likely if you have a m-dot version and use an hreflang.

The only solution there is essentially to make sure that you redirect your users from the m-dot version to the desktop version when they use a desktop browser. And I don’t see us changing this in the near future or probably at all.”

Get further information on mobile-first indexing or help with your website

If you’re concerned about the impact this could have on your website then let’s chat. I’ll be able to help you with your digital marketing strategy or a search engine optimisation review.

We can help you identify any concern areas, and hopefully we’ll impress you enough to bring us on as part of your extended team in the future!

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