Google began indexing all new domains mobile-first by default last year. This was great news for advertisers and new website administrators, but what about existing domains? Those with a mobile-friendly, responsive design fared well. Those who do not have may not be.
For the first quarter of 2019, organic search on mobile devices surpassed half of all searches, with a 6.32 percent increase in click-through rate, or CTR, for mobile websites ranking first. (Do you remember when 3% was something to be proud of?)
Mobile users now account for nearly half of all web traffic. If you’ve been putting off making your website mobile-friendly, consider this your official wake-up call: It’s finally time. I’ll go over everything you need to know about mobile-first indexing in this article, including:
What exactly is mobile-first indexing?
What are the advantages of mobile-first indexing for advertisers?
How to Troubleshoot the Most Common Mobile-First Issues
What exactly is mobile-first indexing?
“Algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results,” according to Google. In other words, your mobile site becomes more important (to Google) than your desktop site.
It’s critical to remember that ranking and indexing are not the same things, but they’re very close. Indexing is how Googlebot and other web crawlers read your page, and ranking is how that indexed content is evaluated. Your rankings will suffer if your page cannot be properly indexed.
Indexing is a critical component of technical SEO, serving as the third rail in a multi-pronged approach to optimization that is rarely discussed. Whereas local and traditional SEO are concerned with page content and user experience, technical SEO ensures that web crawlers can correctly evaluate and rank web pages and sites.
Because mobile pages will soon outnumber desktop versions, it is critical to pay attention to mobile indexing. This is the continuation of a trend toward mobile preference that Google began several years ago. It began by increasing the ranking of responsive websites in search results. It then began to use page speed and load times as a metric for mobile page ranking. As of the previous year, As of last year, any page that ranked low for speed was downgraded in the SERPs.
CMS platforms such as Squarespace, Wix, and the ever-popular WordPress have embraced the concept of mobile dominance in a big way. For example, responsiveness is built into most managed WordPress hosting providers by a community of theme developers who quickly realized that offering a responsive theme that is tweaked for mobile-first use right out of the box is one of the best ways to catch a website owner’s eye. This trend will only worsen as desktop computers give way to mobile devices.
By combining local, traditional, and technical SEO, you can ensure that your website is crawlable, indexable, mobile-friendly, and fast. The key is to keep things simple for everyone, from the developer to the user.
Bottom line: mobile is now unquestionably king.
SEO optimization and high page ranking are more important than ever before, and rising competition makes them more difficult to achieve. What is the significance of mobile optimization for advertisers? Take a look at these statistics and form your own opinion. One word of caution: Failure to heed may result in a loss of traffic and revenue.
Paid search and social media saw the greatest increases in traffic share.
According to 33% of those polled, they clicked on a paid ad because it directly answered a search query.
Almost half of all businesses are implementing digital marketing platforms with no effective strategy in place. This is a futile exercise with a poor return on investment in terms of both time and money.
Advertiser Advantages of Mobile-First Indexing
The most significant advantage of mobile-first indexing for advertisers is that they can reach their target audience more quickly. As an advertiser attempting to allocate digital marketing dollars as efficiently as possible, you want to ensure that your ads are seen. Otherwise, you’re squandering your cash. As mobile devices overtake desktops, those sweet, sweet ad dollars will be generated. First-page SERPs account for 92 percent of all consumer web traffic, so anything you can do that isn’t black hat SEO will give you an advantage.
Ultimately, that statistic in the previous sentence puts a point on this entire article: Mobile devices dominate the market and almost all clicks go to a first-page ranking. Sounds like going for a first-page ranking would be a matter of business survival.
But what if your company does not have a mobile website? That’s simple. Get one right away. That is the only solution.
For the time being, Google is not changing how it ranks websites entirely, but rather will prioritize indexing mobile web pages. If you only have a desktop website, nothing should change in terms of how your website is evaluated, but your rankings may suffer regardless.
That being said, here’s one last piece of advice: Because Google metrics and recommended best practices have such a strong influence on how pages are indexed and rated, it’s important to keep up with changes in Google metrics and recommended best practices, particularly when it comes to ads and where they appear.
The most common issues with mobile-first indexing
Google collaborates closely with webmasters to ensure that all web pages are properly structured to be indexed for mobile-first indexing. The good news is that more than half of all pages that appear in global search have completed the transition.
What’s holding up the rest?
Google hasn’t yet evaluated your website (they’ll notify you via your search console when they do), or your web design isn’t responsive. There could be a number of issues preventing you from moving forward.
Your data is not well-structured.
Many webmasters structure data on desktop versions of their websites, which means it will fall to the wayside once the mobile-first requirement is implemented. This is due to the fact that only the mobile versions of pages will be evaluated. This can be corrected by testing mobile and desktop versions of your page and comparing the results, or by inspecting the source code during mobile simulations with Chrome DevTools.
Your mobile web pages lack alt-text.
Some web designers use alt-text for images and other non-text content on desktops but fail to include it on mobile versions of their websites. The simplest way to accomplish this is to include an “img” tag as well as other alt-attributes on each mobile web page. You can manually search and inspect all of the mobile source code for relevant tags.
It is the fault of unfriendly elements
Googlebot does not actually use your website, but it does judge a set of criteria as it crawls a website. The best way to test this is to use your mobile website (duh) and take note of anything that may be problematic for mobile users. If your font is too small or your elements are too close together, Googlebot will notice. Buttons and links that can be accidentally clicked while a user is trying to click another.
Your mobile web pages are unacceptably slow.
The majority of mobile users conduct their searches while on the go. They require immediate access to information, so site owners must prioritize speed and uptime. According to a recent uptime meta-analysis, both average loading speed and average uptime varied between shared web hosting reviews, with speeds ranging from 336 ms to 7502 ms and uptimes ranging from 99.993 percent on the high end to 97.643 percent on the low end—a 2.35 percent difference.
That may not seem like much, but it adds up to nearly 206 hours of downtime over the course of a year. CPM rates for mobile advertising are decreasing while CTR is increasing (particularly on social networks like Facebook and Instagram), which is great news for advertisers. The increased ad engagement on these platforms, however, is meaningless if your site doesn’t load quickly—or at all.
In a world that obsesses on the lowest price, keep in mind that your host choice can affect information delivery, online security, and mobile website performance. In other words, your entire business. Shopping for a low-budget host may save you money upfront, but ultimately you’ll pay a MUCH higher price in terms of slower speeds and downtime.
Finally, some thoughts
How are you doing in terms of technical SEO? Google’s URL inspection tool can be used to confirm mobile-first indexing. This useful feature lets you inspect live or indexed URLs, test URL indexing, request indexing, and view rendered page versions.
Hopefully, the preceding has persuaded advertisers and site owners of the wisdom of implementing a mobile-first design strategy. Google wants you to, and that is sufficient reason.