Google Turns to Mobile-First Indexing. Are You Ready?
Smartphones have officially taken control of the internet. People use them to search more often than they use desktop or laptop computers. Statistically speaking, it is more likely that a person browsing your site will use a phone to do it than any other device.
In response, Google has turned to mobile-first indexing. This puts a priority on sites that have been optimized for a mobile experience. Are you ready for the change? The way you respond can dramatically impact your page rank and your site's exposure moving forward. The change is here to stay, and odds are that the mobile numbers will only continue to increase.
Not Mobile-Only Indexing
This new way of building site rankings now begins with mobile sites, which become Google's initial point for indexing, but that does not mean there is no value in a more traditional site. The index will not exclude sites without a mobile variation. It simply prefers them. A desktop version would still get indexed and could rank fairly well if there is no mobile version at all.
In other words, if you have not prepared for the shift yet, your site is not going to suddenly disappear from search rankings with mobile users. It can still rank. It is still reachable.
However, not having the mobile version can hurt your ranking. It's not preferred by Google, nor will it be preferred by the end user. The site could have less content, for instance, or it may not provide content in a manner that is easily accessible by a smartphone.
As you know, users do not take the time to work through any sorts of problems and complications online. They simply move on. This lack of optimization could then push mobile users away, cutting into traffic and reducing your ranking even further. At the same time, click rates and dwell times will fall. Everything works against you when your site is optimized for a platform that the majority of your visitors simply are not using.
One thing that can help is if you have engaging, identical content on both your mobile site and your desktop site. Both still get considered for your overall ranking. Where an inadequate mobile site really hurts you is if it means the site people get to actually lacks content that is presented to desktop users. Your site is not as valuable to those on smartphones, and your ranking will reflect that.
As such, it is important to carefully consider all of your content needs and to design a content plan that offers the same thing to both types of users. That could keep you from being impacted by this change in any way, even if you do not have a dedicated mobile site yet.
Another thing to consider is the need for mobile-friendly content. Consider the user experience on a small screen, potentially in a chaotic setting –- on the bus, at the airport, in a restaurant. Long paragraphs with complex sentences and small font are simply not user-friendly. Instead, focus on short, concise sentences. Break frequently for new paragraphs. Use large, legible fonts. Focus on a simplistic page and content construction. Make good use of whitespace. Make the entire site as intuitive as you can.
Embracing the Change
Google has been running this new change for much of 2018 and some of the impact is already clear. As always, Google is responding to the user and trying to focus on enhancing that user experience on every level. You need to embrace this change and do the same. Strive for content that fits the new mobile-first model and make sure you understand exactly what steps you can take to rank as highly as possible.