Google’s mobile-first indexing has been a hot topic in search engine optimization (SEO) since Google laid out its plan back in 2016.
Now, it’s become a reality.
In March 2018, Google rolled out the first wave of mobile-first indexing. And it’s got everyone on edge, particularly when it comes to how it’s affecting sites ranking on Google. After all, it’s not that too long ago when thousands of websites found their rankings plummet after the release of significant updates like Panda and Penguin.
The good news is that unlike previous updates, Google’s shifting sites to mobile-first indexing in batches. That means that you still got time to make the adjustments to your inbound marketing strategy and website as a whole.
What is “mobile-first indexing”?
Mobile-first indexing just means that Google’s algorithm will now use your site’s mobile version as the benchmark when it’s indexed and ranked.
That doesn’t mean that Google would no longer consider the desktop version of your website. Your site’s desktop version will still be recognized. However, it would no longer bear as much weight as it did before this update.
By making this shift, Google is now indirectly making it mandatory to have a mobile version of your website.
It’s about time!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that it’s just a matter of time before Google will launch this kind of update.
In fact, it’s long overdue.
You and I now live in a world where searching the internet on mobile is the new norm! According to a study published by Stone Temple Consulting, over 55% of all internet traffic now comes from mobile devices.
Source: Stone Temple Consulting
Als,o 3 out of 5 of these mobile internet users do a search on Google.
Even more interesting is that people no longer do a mobile search when they’re away from their laptop or desktop. In fact, 77% of these mobile searches are done at home or at work.
Source: Digital Stats
More important, the rise of marketing technology trends like chatbots and voice search poise mobile internet search to grow exponentially within the next few months.
The only problem is, Google still bases rankings on a website’s desktop version. A site’s mobile version is treated more like an “alternate” version.
This is the reason why a website that’s not mobile-friendly can still have a high rank when you do a search on your mobile device.
That is, until mobile-first indexing.
Now, not only sites are ranked based on their content and their SEO, but also on their mobile-friendliness.
Mobile-first indexing and growth marketing
Much of the news and articles that you’ll find online about mobile-first index primarily focuses on its impact on your site’s SEO. That being said, should you be concerned?
The answer is YES!
Your success with marketing hugely relies on your target market finding and consuming content you publish on your site. By educating and providing solutions for their needs through your content, they will then convert into leads and, eventually, into paying customers.
For that to happen, you need to make sure that your target audience quickly finds your content. This is where making sure your site and content are ready for mobile-first indexing, especially if you’re just starting out on your business.
The internet has now become the world’s largest repository of information. You can literally find content on just about anything you can think of here.
But let’s be honest: not all of the information that you find on a particular topic contains quality information.
Years of people practicing Black Hat SEO techniques to manipulate site rankings on search engine result pages (SERPs) led to an influx of poor quality content that’s helpful only to the site owners.
People rely on search engines to sift through them and rank these articles and blog posts based on their quality and relevance. That’s why it’s crucial your content not only makes it on the first page of Google’s SERP but lands on the top spot.Content ranked #1 on Google's SERP receives 31.52% clicks on desktops, and 24.05% clicks on mobile.Click To Tweet
What’s interesting is that the percentage of click steeply declines the further down you go the list. A piece of content that ranks #5 on Google’s SERP receives 25% fewer clicks than those obtained by content ranking #1 for the same keyword.
So how to get to the top?
If you answer create content with valuable information, you’re only partly correct.
Search bots are smarter now than they were two decades ago, but not smart enough to understand your content like you would. They still need a bit of help. That’s where SEO and preparing for mobile-first indexing come to play.
Here are some actionable steps you can easily apply and incorporate into your inbound marketing strategy to get your brand ready for mobile-first indexing.
7 ways to prepare for mobile-first indexing
1. Shift your mindset
Despite the fact more people are using mobile devices now to surf the internet, many marketers still test content and landing pages on desktops or laptops.
Since it’s only going to be a matter of time before Google shifts all websites to mobile-first indexing, you need to start training yourself and your team to prioritize testing your content and landing pages on mobile.
2. Switch to a responsive website design
Making sure that your brand is using a responsive website design is perhaps the most important thing you need to prepare for mobile-first indexing.
I believe that it’s safe even to say that responsive website designs are going to become mandatory.
For starters, it’s mobile-friendly. Responsive designs quickly adjust how your site appears onscreen based on the device used by your visitors and leads. This eliminates any need to create a separate mobile version of your site altogether.
More important, Google loves it! It’s been Google’s preferred site design long before mobile-first indexing.
So how do you know if your website is using a responsive website design?
Well, there are two ways to find out.
The first one is that you can check it using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
What I like about this tool (apart from the fact that it’s a free tool) is that it not only tells you whether or not your site is mobile-friendly but also any potential issues that can hurt your rankings.
It also gives you a link to resubmit your site to Google once you made the adjustments so that it can be indexed.
Another way is to make your web browser’s width smaller.
I actually discovered this while doing research on one of my previous articles. I would take down notes using Word. Instead of shifting from one screen to the next as I take down notes, I decided to make the width of my web browser smaller.
I noticed that the details on some of the sites I visited automatically adjusted to the size of my browser, so I don’t have to scroll from left to right to read them.
Curious, I decided to test these out using Google’s mobile-friendly test tool. As it turns out, those sites whose content adjusted when I decreased the width of my web browser were mobile-friendly.
Take my website, for example. Here’s what it looks like when my browser is at full width:
And this is what it looks like when I shrink the width by half:
See the difference?
3. Test your website’s loading speed
How fast your website loads is just as critical as your design.
The reason? Even the most patient people in the world change when they go online. Your visitors are only willing to wait up to 3 seconds for your website to load. Any longer, and they will leave.
This can hurt your page rankings because as more and more people leave your site, your site’s bounce rate will start going up.
Google’s RankBrain will take notice of this. Even if your site is filled with valuable content, if your site’s bounce rate continues to increase, RankBrain could penalize your site by demoting its rank on its SERP.
Slow loading websites can also hurt your marketing strategy’s ability to generate leads and convert sales.
According to Kissmetrics, brands can lose as much as 7% conversion just because their site loaded a second slower than expected.
Putting this in perspective, if your website sales funnel is bringing in $100,000 each day, this one-second delay could cost you $2.5 million worth of sales per year! Ouch!
More important, Google is planning to update its algorithm (yet again) to penalize slow-loading websites with lower page rankings. So make sure that you’re ready.
4. Make sure to optimize your content for mobile
In addition to standard SEO best practices you use to optimize your content for your site’s desktop version, there are a few more things you’ll need to do so that your content is mobile-friendly.
Keep your headlines short.
Since mobile device screens are thinner than desktop or laptop screens. That means that fewer characters can fit on each line. This is even more so with headlines because of the font size.
Using simple, straightforward words is a great way to do this. Not only are they shorter in length, but they get the message across immediately.
And since you only got 8 seconds to convince visitors to stay, this will be a big help.
Long-form content still works.
Long-form content is still very much welcomed in the world of mobile. In fact, studies show that 2,000-word articles rank higher in Google and other search engines.
One reason for this is that you not only are able to use multiple versions of your targeted keyword in long-form content but also provide more valuable information.
Longer articles and blog posts also mean that your readers spend more time on your website.
When writing long-form content for mobile, it’s crucial that you use simple words and short paragraphs. These make it easier for your readers to scroll through your content, and still get value from it.
Make your font bigger.
Small fonts may work well for your site’s desktop version, but not with mobile. The smaller screen on tablets and smartphones can make small fonts very difficult to read.
Increasing the font size will save your visitors the frustration of having to squint or zoom your site just to read your article or blog post.
Put your social media buttons in the right place.
One of my biggest pet peeves when viewing sites on mobile is when a portion of the article is covered by their social media sharing buttons.
Although they move out of the way when I hold my phone horizontally, it’s still annoying that I’m “required” to do this just to read the content.
Place your social media sharing buttons on the top and bottom part of your blog post. That way, you can be sure that they won’t distract your readers as they go through your content.
Test your CTA buttons.
Of the different elements that make up your blog post or article, the most important is your call-to-action (CTA) button.
Your CTA button is what converts your visitors to leads, and leads to customers. Without it, you won’t be able to help guide your visitor through your buyer’s journey.
Make sure that the size of your CTA is large enough so that it’s easy to spot and tap.
5. Consider audio-visual content
According to a research study done by HubSpot, 62% of people say that they pay more attention to video content.
The same study also shows that 53% of consumers want to see more video content from brands.
Podcasts are another type of content worth considering.
Although they’re not yet as popular as videos, it’s quickly gaining momentum. According to the latest statistics, 44% of people in the US have listened to a podcast. Of these, 80% will listen to most or all of the podcast episode.
Source: Podcast Insights
One reason why these content formats are ideal in today’s mobile-first indexing world is they’re both primarily consumed using mobile devices. 51% of online videos are watched on a mobile device while two-thirds of podcasts are consumed on mobile devices.
Also, your visitors spend more time on your site consuming these content compared to merely skimming through your blog post or article. Search bots will see this as a good sign that your content is of high quality and bring value to your readers. In turn, they will reward your material with a higher ranking on SERPs.
6. Continue building high-quality backlinks
Building links from high-quality and reputable sites still play a vital part in your site’s overall ranking among search engines. In fact, 30% of your total ranking in Google depends not just on how many backlinks that direct traffic to your site.
Source: SEO Services
Guest posting is my favorite way to build links to drive traffic to my website. This gives me the chance to create a backlink to get readers to check out my site. It also boosts my credibility and authority as an inbound marketer.
When submitting a guest post, make sure that the links you add to the article direct readers to quality content on your site.
Remember readers, click on a link to get additional information. So make sure that the link you include here gives them that. Otherwise, they can end up leaving right away or worse, your guest post won’t get accepted.
7. Don’t forget your desktop
As you prepare for the shift to mobile-first indexing, don’t make the mistake of setting desktop user experience aside.
While internet use and conversions on desktops and laptops have decreased, the percentage is still significant enough to affect the overall success of your inbound marketing campaigns. So don’t forget to make your site’s desktop version just as easy to use as your mobile, and vice-versa.
Google’s mobile-first indexing is, by all means, going to change the way how we optimize the content we publish for our inbound marketing campaigns forever. It’s a clear signal on how much mobile technology has influenced not just the way we communicate but do business.
Some may view this change as another way of Google making things even more challenging to do business online.
I don’t see it that way.
On the contrary, I see it as a good thing.
By shifting their algorithm to put more weight on how your site and content performs on mobile devices, Google is, in fact, pointing us to the direction we should start taking concerning your inbound marketing strategy.
Google tells us that there’s no need to panic, and they’re right.
If you’re already using a responsive design for your brand’s website, you’re pretty much all set to take Google’s mobile-first indexing head on. If not, now will be an excellent time to invest in one.
That can be easier said than done, especially if you’ve already invested quite a significant amount of your current website design.
But as I mentioned earlier, the potential losses you can incur when you resist this change will significantly outweigh the additional investment required to get your brand’s site ready for Google’s mobile-first indexing.
So, what do you think? What ways do you imagine having to alter your website for mobile-first indexing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.