Website owners will start to see a change in the ranking on the search engine results page (SERP) thanks to the mobile-first index. The mobile-first index significantly changes how Google crawls website content, which has an effect on SEO and digital marketing. ‘Crawling’ is when the search engine bots examine website content, and links before indexing and ranking the website. The new update from Google changes web design and SEO by shifting the focus from desktop to mobile websites.
What does the Mobile-first index updates do?
First announced in October 2017, the mobile-first index gives more weight to mobile sites than desktop sites. Google used to crawl the desktop and mobile version of the website but gave a final rank based on the desktop website. The mobile-first index update changes how Google crawls content so that the final rank is given based on the quality of the mobile site, over the desktop version.
After implementing the update, Google shifted a select few websites to mobile-first index. A gradual shift to give website owners time to optimize their sites for mobile devices. On March 2018, Google shifted more websites to mobile-first index. Hence, websites not properly optimized for mobile will fall on the SERP.
How does this affect web design and digital marketing?
Google continues to give more weight to mobile devices, and with good reason. Google claims that 60% percent of search traffic comes from mobile devices and this number is set to grow in the future.
. To remedy this problem, owners should take steps to make their site more mobile-friendly. The first step towards a more mobile-friendliness is a responsive website. Responsive websites are designed to adjust to screens automatically. Thus, owners reap the benefits of mobile-friendly sites without neglecting their desktop visitors.
Responsive websites are not brand new, in fact developing websites for multiple screens is a fairly common practice amongst web design companies. Therefore, website owners can quickly take the first step in making their website more optimized for mobile.
SEO experts must give more priority to mobile-friendliness. Mobile-friendliness is dependent on content structure, canonical tags, and load speed. Load speed is a crucial factor for mobile-friendliness and is very important for ranking on mobile SERP. The faster the load speed, the friendlier the website is to mobile users because it uses less bandwidth to load.
On-page SEO will put more focus on how content is structured. Mobile users engage with content differently because of the small size of the screen, for example, large walls of text are intimidating, but effective use of white spacing encourages uses to engage with the content. Canonical tags are used to signal the search engine that the URL is the master page. SEO experts use canonical tags to prevent problems with duplicate content.
Content creators have to optimize content for mobile sites. Mobile optimized content means being able to communicate the intended message without overwhelming the user with too much information. Digital marketing guru, Neil Patel recommends the ‘Bite, Snack, Meal’ technique of writing.
The ‘Bite, Snack, Meal’ technique is a writing method that seeks to engage three different types of readers: Those who glance at the headline before moving on, users who read the summary only, and those who read the entire article from top to bottom.
Images are very important for engaging users. Eye tracking studies indicate that user’s eyes are drawn automatically to images, the perfect hub for valuable content. Images can be used to break up long text walls and make long-form content more palatable. Graphs and infographics can be used to convey a lot of information without overwhelming users.
However, images should be carefully optimized because they do not always translate well onto smaller screens. Un-optimized images may not load onto mobile screens, or take too much mobile data to load.
The mobile-first index is a clear sign of Google’s preference for mobile. Google has been giving more focus to mobile with search algorithm updates. Therefore, any website owner that neglects mobile is going to hurt future business. The future of SEO will see mobile become the most important platform for Google. Besides the importance of mobile, there are other SEO trends like feature snippets and voice search that will become more important in time. Web designers and SEO engineers will have to keep abreast with the latest developments to stay ahead of their competition.