Mobile-First Indexing and What It Means for Businesses

In Mobile by Mo IqbalLeave a Comment

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In 2015, Google said the majority of their users searched from mobile devices.

In 2016, Google announced they’ve begun experimenting with mobile-first indexing.

In 2018, half of all webpages were indexed by Google’s smartphone Googlebot, or web crawler.

Fast forward to present day, Google came out and said mobile-first indexing will be the default for all new web domains starting July 1, 2019. You might be asking what this means for you, or what “mobile-first indexing” means at all. Let’s start with the basics by explaining what “indexing” means without getting too technical.

Search engines, such as Google, collect data and store this data in an index to facilitate fast and accurate information retrieval during web searches. Traditionally, that web data was evaluated for relevance on a desktop version of a website. Moving forward, the mobile version will be crawled by search engines to make results more useful for a Google user.

Over the years, search engines have been relentless in optimizing speed and performance for their users, and no search engine has been as meticulous as Google when it comes to this. With changing consumer habits and the meteoric rise of smartphone use over the last decade, this shift is necessary. This change is essentially signaling the maturity of mobile usage. Google is taking the necessary steps to live up to its mission of helping everyone find the information they need in the wake of another technological evolution– 5G. As data speeds continue to exponentially climb, consumers will expect the retrieval of accurate information that much faster.

So, what does all of this mean for brands and businesses? Well, for starters, business owners should approach their digital strategy with a mobile-first view point. The foremost questions they should ask themselves are:

  • How does it look on mobile?
  • How does it feel on mobile?

Although Google’s July 1st rollout is exclusive to webpages, the mobile-first approach should extend to every bit of digital branding a business has in its marketing mix. Appropriate graphics sizing on social media, mobile responsive ads, and properly coded HTML emails are just a few items to keep in mind when it comes to how they’re displayed on mobile formats.

Now that you’re up to speed on what changes are coming our way, you might wonder where you stand. First, check your site’s mobile-friendliness with Google’s tool. It may be easier to copy your site’s entire code and paste it into the field rather than copying and pasting individual pages from your website. Reach out to your webmaster if you need assistance with this. We’ve listed the technical issues that would immediately invalidate a website from being mobile-friendly in a TL;DR format. If further clarification is needed regarding the following points, reach out to us and we’d love to discuss further.

  • Incompatible plugins
    • Plugins available on popular content management systems such as WordPress are typically supported by most mobile browsers. Websites that aren’t built using broadly-supported web technologies, such as HTML5; or websites that still use Flash run the risk of being incompatible.
  • Viewport not set
    • Viewport is the visible area of a webpage. Once tablet and mobile phone browsing started to rise, HTML5 introduced a way for web designers to have better control over the viewport property by giving the browser instructions on adjusting the page’s dimensions and scalability.
  • Viewport not set to “device-width”
    • What’s worse than having an undefined viewport property? Having a fixed-width viewport that’s limited to one screen size. Adopting a responsive design will adjust your site’s viewport to match the various screen sizes available.
  • Content wider than screen
    • Another viewport related issue is when horizontal scrolling is necessary to see words and images on a webpage. Technically speaking, this relates to absolute values being used in the CSS elements rather than relative width and position values. Experience is negatively impacted when a user has to zoom in and move text from side to side to be able to read content.
  • Text too small to read
    • Legibility is a huge topic when it comes to mobile-friendliness. If your website visitors have to pinch to zoom in order to read, search rankings will surely be affected. Text issues can be addressed in viewport by setting font sizes to scale.
  • Clickable elements too close together
    • Ever click on something on a mobile site, such as a products page, but get directed to the company page or contact page? When navigational links and buttons are so close to each other, users will find it hard to tap a desired element. These issues are corrected by using additional padding around elements such as buttons to increase their tap size.

If your site passes the Mobile-Friendly Test, you can breathe easy– for the most part. Some sites may get the “Page is mobile friendly” designation after passing the aforementioned points, though still have page loading issues such as image, script, or CSS errors which may impact search rankings.

Many online tools have done a great job with providing templates that come mobile-friendly right out of the box. These templates are developed with containers and breakpoints specific to the most popular screen sizes. Most templates come “as-is” with no room for modifications so the page layout doesn’t “break.” This route is best-suited for low-budget campaigns or launching campaigns on-the-fly. For the more discerning business owner, a custom solution won’t only have a unique design but will include modern technologies which facilitate ease of use. Because if there is something we can take away from this, it’s that the user-experience should be the driving force behind a digital strategy.

If you’re a past or present client of Tech Critic or just a visitor enjoying this reading, protect your website’s search visibility by testing its mobile-friendliness through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. If the results come back with page loading issues or not mobile-friendly, give us a shout and we’ll be happy to get your site where it needs to be. If your site is in the clear, you can breathe a sigh of relief since you’ll be spared during this upcoming Google update.

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