At the end of March, Google announced that after a year and a half of testing they were making the switch to mobile-first indexing. Mobile-first indexing means Google will use the mobile version of a web page “for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.
Why Mobile Matters
What does this mean for your business? Without a responsive website, Google will no longer be sending you traffic from mobile devices. And with people spending an average of 69% of their media time on smartphones, not having a mobile-responsive website can be highly detrimental to the success of your business. Optimizing for mobile should be your number one priority for 2018.
It is best marketing practice to align with the buyer’s behavior for any form of marketing that you do, but when it comes to mobile, you will want to make sure you are offering the best user experience possible. If not, more than half of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly-designed mobile site, and we all know that word of mouth is king.
Websites designed for desktop viewing are difficult to view and navigate from mobile devices. Not only does a poor mobile presence—or worse, no mobile presence at all—come across as unprofessional, it also comes across as out of touch.
When a consumer has trouble accessing the information they are looking for, Google says that 61% of them are unlikely ever to return. Even worse, 40% will visit a competitor’s site instead. You run the risk of losing a potential customer for life.
If this is making you panic, don’t. The change in Google’s search algorithm to mobile-first indexing is happening in waves, not all at once. For added reassurance, for its first wave, Google selected those sites that are already following the best practices for mobile-first indexing. However, the company has not released a timeline for when the mobile-first indexing rollout would be complete so you’ll want to prioritize a mobile-friendly website sooner rather than later.
What Makes a Great Mobile Website
The most important qualities of a great mobile website are readability and navigation. Consider factors including font size, amount of text and the number of items in your navigation menu. Users don’t want to endlessly scroll or zoom in and out to find what they’re looking for. Furthermore, you want them to find the most valuable information in as few taps of the screen as possible.
According to Adobe, 61% of visits to retail sites now stem from mobile devices, while 70% of purchases are predicted to be made on mobile over desktop by the end of the year. Consider features like ‘tap-to-call’ or ‘add to bag’ buttons that can have a significant impact on your conversion rate. The more visible and clear your call to action is, the more likely the user is to complete it.
Lastly, while quality photos and videos are important for any website, being aware of their size and load time are increasingly important for mobile performance.
Other Factors to Consider
It’s important to know that according to Google, mobile-friendly indexing won’t directly impact how content is ranked. Instead, having a site’s mobile-friendly content indexed first will likely help the site “perform better” in mobile search results.
Google has begun to prioritize mobile sites in several ways. Using a signal that monitors page speed, the company has announced that beginning in July pages with slow-loading content will be downranked.
Keep in mind that whether your business has a mobile responsive site or not is not the only factor that affects your search rankings. There are times when a non-mobile friendly site still has the best information and will appear higher, so the quality of your content and the frequency at which you update it will remain important.
While there are a host of do-it-yourself solutions to help you create a mobile website, the algorithm used by Google is complex and ever-changing, so it is best to consult a professional who is experienced not only in design but also optimization.