Can you remember the last time you sat down in front of your desktop to search for direction or make a reservation at your favorite restaurant?
You probably can’t—and that’s indicative of how mobile-centric our world has become. Whether it comes to keeping in contact with your friend or purchasing a new pair of pants, everything is done on our smartphones and mobile devices. So it comes as no surprise that mobile has been a huge focus for many brands’ and businesses’ marketing efforts over the past few years.
And, of course, Google has had a huge role in this shift, with its decision to prioritize mobile over desktop when indexing pages for search results.
In this article, I’ll be going over how Google has changed the way it indexes its pages for search results and what you need to do as a social media marketing agency owner to prepare your clients’ websites.
Why the Shift?
Google’s change in approach to indexing is a response to users’ own behaviors—there has been a significant increase in searches from mobile devices and this trend isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
The original method of indexing web pages was not the ideal user experience for mobile users, and this is mainly due to the fact that desktop and mobile versions of many websites do not have matching content. It prioritized websites on desktop devices over mobile.
However, the huge switch in user behavior to using smartphones over PC prompted Google to announce in March that they were going to start rolling out mobile-first indexing. Mobile-first indexing simply means that Google now considers mobile-friendly sites first when ranking content.
The most important criteria for Google’s mobile-first indexing is that mobile pages have to serve the same content as the desktop versions. This means that desktop sites that have longer, more in-depth content than their mobile equivalent may be negatively impacted by the new mobile-first indexing.
This means that you, as a social media marketer, need to make mobile optimization a priority if you want you and your clients to be a top-ranked result in user searches. The easiest way to do this is to start at the very beginning—you should consider taking a mobile-first approach, developing your site for mobile and then optimizing that for desktops instead.
How Does it Work?
With the original indexing, Google would crawl the desktop version of a website, and if a mobile version existed, the search ranking of that website would be boosted. Now, Google crawls every website’s mobile web pages first to establish its search engine rankings before it crawls desktop web pages.
If a mobile version of the site doesn’t exist, the search rankings are determined on the basis of the desktop site only. For a website based on a CMS platform such as WordPress or a responsive website, this change is almost of no significance, as these kinds of websites suit any device, including tablets, mobile devices, and desktops.
Note that with mobile-first indexing, the desktop version isn’t rendered obsolete, it’s simply that the mobile site is the driving factor in determining your search ranking. A website without a mobile version or an unresponsive website will still be indexed, but the ranking will be negatively impacted
If you have separate URLs for mobile and desktop, mobile users will see the mobile URL and desktop users will see the desktop URL, but your overall ranking will be determined by the content on your mobile site.
So what does this mean for you and your social media marketing agency? It means that it is time to start revamping your approach to building websites for mobile SEO. If you don’t, you can expect to see any websites that are not mobile-friendly to see their search engine rankings slip.
Essentially, you should start thinking that your ‘primary version’ of your site is the mobile version. However, if your content is already optimized for mobile and your site is responsive, then you shouldn’t experience any significant changes.
What Does This Mean for Your Marketing? Specifically Your SEO Efforts?
Any of your clients who have different versions of their web pages for desktop and mobile users are going to be most affected.
The mobile-first indexing shift will affect your search rankings if:
- You serve your audience different content on desktop and mobile versions of your web pages
- Your mobile web pages lack any structured data and metadata
- The link profiles directed towards your mobile pages aren’t as strong as the ones on your desktop versions
- The mobile device versions of your web pages aren’t properly verified in the Search Console
- Your mobile web pages aren’t optimized for mobile devices altogether
What Can You Do About It?
There are a few things you can do to ensure that you have a smooth transition to Google’s mobile-first indexing. At your SMMA, make sure that not only your websites follow these simple tips, but also those of your clients.
Test Your Site
Leveraging mobile-first indexing is all about giving your mobile site visitors the best possible experience. To figure out how you can do this, you first need to know how mobile-friendly your site already is.
Luckily, you can easily test your website using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and gauge that for yourself. Simply input your site URL here, click “Run Test” and learn the results.
If your site is not already mobile-friendly, then the tool also gives a list of suggestions as to how you can improve it.
Use Responsive Design
As previously mentioned, having a website that automatically adjusts itself as per a user’s device is an absolute must. For example, WordPress themes are automatically responsive.
Create Mobile Optimize Content
Mobile content optimization is a priority if you want to stay ahead of the game and capture these prospects. It is recommended that you review and optimize mobile page speed and load times, as these can affect rankings.
As websites start being indexed mobile-first, their owners are being notified on Google Search Console. Google plans to evaluate each site independently to check if it’s ready for the shift, moving it when it’s ready.
The shift to mobile-first index is expected to be gradual, allowing time for websites to adapt to the new approach. Though there’s no timeline in place to complete the process, it’s a wake-up call for all websites to initiate processes to rank high on the mobile-first index.
Any good marketer knows that the key to improving your strategies is to respond to consumer behavior, and that is exactly what this shift to mobile-first indexing aims to do. Consumers spend more time on mobile devices than traditional desktops, and therefore Google has had to respond.
The change in ranking websites prioritizes mobile over a desktop, and so you must be prepared for the change by following the basic steps outlined in this article. Adjusting your websites so they’re optimized for mobile as the primary source, then your business or brand will be on target to rank higher in search queries.
If you want to learn more about how to get your business or your clients’ businesses to rank higher in search queries, then enroll in our Digital Marketing School today! You can also follow us on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram for helpful tips, tricks, and news on the daily. If you want more FREE training, then visit our blog!