How to optimize your site for Google’s mobile first changes

How to optimize your site for Google's mobile first changes

For the first time in internet history, 2016 saw mobile traffic surpass desktop traffic for the first time. Following this, Google announced its intent to implement a mobile-first index which would dictate their search results. Doing so, they argued, would better cater to the overwhelming levels of mobile users instead of the minority desktop.


This change began rollout on March 26, 2018, though Google has not remarked on what websites are being hit by these initial stages. Which is why many businesses may be taken by surprise if a dramatic drop in mobile traffic was to occur. Preemptive optimization now, then, could ensure that your site does not experience this. And if you optimize now and your competitors do not, you could see yourself well rewarded in SERPs for your efforts.

So, with that in mind, what exactly is mobile first and what do you need to be doing in order to make sure your site is ready for Google’s mobile-first incentive?

What is Mobile First?

The mobile-first index is simple in that it is a change from ranking sites based on their desktop version to ranking them based on mobile content instead. This means, also, that desktop users will see search results based on the quality of mobile sites. So, moving forward sites that wish to rank well and be discoverable need to have a well optimized mobile site.

Of course, if you do not have a mobile version of your site Google states that your desktop site will continue to be crawled as usual. But, there are many that are worried this will have a negative effect on results nevertheless.

In either case, it is clear that having a well-optimized mobile content is vital for the future of your site. Which is why optimizing now can save you a big headache later.

Site tests

Not sure if your site is optimized for mobile? Or how fast it loads? Then you need to use online tools – which are free – to gauge what state your site is currently in. Using site test tools also gives you the benefit of understanding where you were at the start, implementing changes and then using the tools again to check these changes worked. They can be used as a measure of your success.

Good tools for this include Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom.

Speed up your site

One of the biggest ways to improve your site’s mobile optimization and prepare your site for the mobile-first index is through improving site speed. The faster your site loads, the better user experience and the better Google will rank your site. Slow, clunky loading and the like will only cause people to bounce from your site and Google to penalize you.

There are three main ways that you can improve your site speed quickly and efficiently:

  • AMP – The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project is aimed at improving the overall mobile landscape. It used pared-down HTML, enabling much faster loading. Content is also cached by Google itself which speeds up load time immensely. Plenty of plugins exist for this.
  • PWA – Progressive Web Apps loads instantly, responds to user clicks and includes an immersive UX. You can explore this further on Google’s developer’s website.
  • Compress Images – image size and loading times is a big offender for poor mobile performance on your site. So, compressing these images across your site is vital. There are plenty of WordPress plugins that do this for you, it’s just a case of finding one you like!

At the end of the day, site speed should be a priority to continually improve for good UX. But, as it also helps with dealing and ranking well in Google’s new mobile-first index it should also be a much bigger priority for you and your website.

Mobile First work process

Instead of being reactionary when it comes to mobile first, you need to focus your efforts on mobile in the first place in order to ensure you have the best website possible – for both Google and user benefit. This means changing the mindset you have when it comes to managing and updating your site, but it can be extremely beneficial in the long term.

Of course, you could also choose to forego a responsive site and simply use an app to give your users the best mobile experience possible. With the help of app developers, you can easily create an intuitive UX design which gives users quick loading, good content and the best mobile experience possible. This isn’t a possibility for every site, obviously, but it should seriously be considered if you are interested in bringing your UX to the next level.

Conclusions

Being fast is the name of the game moving forward in 2018. If you site loading speed is anything less than instantaneous, then you will be harshly judged by both Google and your users. So, invest in optimizing your site speed now to prepare for the full rollout of the mobile-first index. Changes won’t be noticeable now, in the first stages of rollout, but they could hit you hard later if you don’t act.

This is a guest post by Zack Halliwell.