Preparing Yourself For Google’s Mobile-First Index

It’s highly probable that you’ve been privy to industry rumblings about the future of mobile browsing. Smart Insights reports that, as of 2016, media time amongst US users is spread lopsidedly between desktop (42%) and portable devices (51%). If we take this as indicative of global trends, it seems that smartphones and tablets will quickly supersede PCs as the world’s number one browsing tool.

Brands should therefore prioritise getting a mobile-optimised website up and running, if they haven’t already done so. As Google adapts its search engine model, putting even more pace behind the mobile-centric change, it’s vital that your site is ready for what’s to come…

A shift in search engine priorities 

When we type something into Google’s search bar, digital algorithms determine what’s useful and what isn’t. Listings on the search engine results pages (SERPs) are traditionally ranked on the quality of their content and how long they hold someone’s attention. Until recently, the algorithms didn’t analyse whether pages were suited to the browsing method itself.

In real terms, this could bump up a clumsy, non-mobile-oriented site above competitors that are fluid to read, select and scroll through. Google has taken stock of the evidence for predominant mobile usage, acknowledging that the mobile version of a site should be the primary source of interest for the majority of browsers.

Adapting to the mobile-first index

Google’s mobile-first index is going to shake up the search engine’s priorities. Indexing – that is the process of ranking results – will favour optimised interfaces, placing them at the top of the ladder when it’s appropriate.

Brands that have done this already shouldn’t worry; in fact, your site could enjoy a greater level of exposure. However, businesses that have failed to construct their mobile site properly, with all the right protocols, will be penalised by Google bots.

So what are those levels of distinction? A starting point could be your site configuration, and whether the structured markup differs from the main website to its mobile sibling. Web crawlers will struggle to locate your site, and boost its results status, if the markup is lacking.

Another contention is whether you’ve registered the mobile version on GCS (Google Search Console). This, essentially, lets Google know that a site is officially linked to your organisation. Double-check whether you’ve done so. And above all, don’t release a mobile website until it’s fully optimised: you’ll only be penalised for it.

Keeping ahead of the times

It’ll be another few months, at least, before Google initiates the mobile-first index on a massive scale. Here and there, users are already reporting back their experiences with the test model, which means the entire switch could be refined even further as more feedback trickles in.

Anyone pursuing online success should take heed and adapt their mobile identity as fast as they can. SEO is about to receive marching orders to a phone-and-tablet-oriented world. In this sense, partnering with a digital marketing agency like Impression can help with the transition. Talk to us for quality advice on building and marketing your mobile site, fitting right into the hands of the modern consumer…