Think of the last time you pulled out your phone to Google something while you were in the middle of a task or conversation. Whether it was to see what restaurants were near you, research the coffee maker you were thinking about buying, or search for a quick tip when you were trying to solve the mystery of your leaky faucet, I’d wager a bet that it was within the last week that you reached for your mobile device to serve up some immediate info. You’re not alone in this habit–75 percent of smartphone owners turn to search first to address their immediate needs, which means it’s more important than ever for brands to provide incredible, mobile-first experiences that are discoverable via a quick search.
New changes in SEO indexing reflect this consumer behavior. In response to the fact that three out of five searches happen on mobile rather than desktop, Google has been working to make the web more mobile-friendly–which led to their recent mobile-first indexing update. What exactly does this change mean? Well, the mobile version of websites is where Google will be the starting point for their index. Long story short? Your mobile version will be primarily considered during ranking for Google.
So, where do you go from here? It’s no longer enough to simply ensure your made-for-desktop website stacks correctly on mobile. It has to be made-for-mobile. To help you adjust to this changing environment, we’ve got a couple of best practices to help with not only keeping up, but more importantly succeeding in today’s mobile search climate.
Ensure Your Design Is Up to Par
The most important part of a not only well-indexed site but also a well-received site is that the design adjusts according to device it’s being seen on. This concept is known as responsive design and allows your website to look and feel differently based on the needs of the users. By doing so, you are joining the mobile-first movement and showing the user that their accessibility needs are more important than creating a website that can have the most information on it. A great responsive website is not one that simply fits on the screen you’re using, but rather remains highly usable throughout. At the very, least, your website should be considered “mobile-friendly” by Google’s standards (which can be checked with a quick Google test!)
Clean Up Your Content
Simply making your website responsive doesn’t automatically make the content mobile-friendly. When sitting and creating content, you must have mobile-first visitors in mind. This means altering the layout of your content–think small paragraphs. This allows readers to remain interested and have ease of reading. In addition, don’t simply rely on the written word–photos, infographics, videos, and audio can hold the reader’s attention and provide a better experience. This may be a trial and error process at times, so pay attention to your site analytics and see what is performing best. This feedback will help you hone in on what tactics are most appealing for your users.
Integrate Familiar Gestures
Your users are used to swiping, scrolling, and tapping on their smartphones…so embrace those gestures when you design for mobile! Consider migrating a crowded image gallery to a single image that takes up most of the screen, but allows the user to scroll left and right between photos using swipe gestures. Or instead of having the user scroll endlessly on a homepage that is chock-full of content, create a navigation menu that allows the user to tap between sections via header buttons at the top of the page.
Keep It Speedy
In order to index well, a speedy load time is a must. Fifty-three percent of mobile users abandon a site if it takes more than three seconds to load, so doing a little extra leg-work on the front end to ensure your site is beautiful, dynamic, and fast is well worth it. One way to ensure your mobile experience is quick as can be? Caching! Utilize behind-the-scenes tech like a service worker to enable browsers to cache elements of your mobile site as the user browses–this will guarantee fast load times, even when the service level isn’t ideal.
Picture your desktop screen…now, picture your smartphone screen. Images that fill those screens are vastly different sizes, so why would you ever use the same image size for mobile as you would for desktop? It’s time to resize. While there’s unfortunately not a method to the madness here other than scale, test, and revise–Google does provide some helpful image optimization tips (and a checklist!).
Long story short here–industry leaders like Google are taking notice and making changes because of the major user shift towards mobile. If you are willing to sit back and hope your website stands up against the competition, you’re likely to suffer. Take the time and investment to ensure your mobile website fits the standards–your index and your users will thank you.