“An almost annual anticipation ‘what would Google do next’.”
Being of an age when Yahoo ruled and Google was only a rumour, I’ve learnt to never stand still in digital.
The enormity of Google’s arrival was out-shone by anticipation with an almost annual anticipation ‘what would Google do next’.
Webmasters predicted, hypothesised and evaluated possible outcomes and impact.
You’ll know about Panda and Penguin; Caffeine and Hummingbird, Googles Knowledge Graph [this is a comprehensive link to Neal Patel’s page] soon followed by a be ‘mobile-friendly’, three-line whip in 2015.
I lived through them all and survived.
2018’s Google adjustment is Mobile-First.
It’s not new. Talk of the “Year of the Mobile” has been doing the rounds since 2005.
However as mobile traffic surpasses desktop, its real and it’s here.
A. What does Mobile-First mean?
Google will have indexed your desktop based website and likely to see this as the primary source of content and rank you on these pages. It makes complete sense for Google to switch this so your website is ranked based on the structure, information architecture, design, build and content of your mobile site first.
B. When will Mobile-First rollout?
Here’s a blog from Google on March 28th, 2018
So assume its now and plan accordingly.
If you’re reading this in 2020, then I guess you may have missed the boat. But its never too late
C. 7-Things you should do now?
Find out how your desktop & mobiles are built:
If your website is responsive [it adapts and responds whether you’re viewing on a desktop or a mobile] and the content and mark-up is mirrored across mobile and desktop devices, pat yourself on your back.
You made the best choice to build a responsive site.
Make sure your website is mobile friendly:
Ideally you did this in April 2015. If you didn’t, you can still make a difference. Show your developer this page https://developers.google.com/search/mobile-sites/ and crack on ticking off each element. It’s not too hard.
Make sure Google can see your mobile site:
Whatever you call them, Google sends spiders, bots etc to crawl your site to grab your site details and rank its quality. Again do this by checking you welcome Google to check your site by asking your developer to take a look at https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6062598?hl=e
The Technical Bit:
Make sure you show your website user structured mark-ups for both the desktop and mobile version. This enables Google to easily differentiate your desktop and mobile structures and define accordingly. If you’re not sure ask your developer to look at https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/prototype
Check your analytics to ensure Google is grabbing, spidering, crawling your mobile-first index. You’ll be aware as you would see that switch to over 70% GoogleBot mobile.
Google advices that customer is first and it makes sense to ensure your site is fast. How fast is fast? For free. https://gtmetrix.com/ will tell you complete the download speed. So with a website fully downloaded in say 6-seconds, the user will be seeing primary elements of your site loading in hopefully 1-2 seconds and other stuff loading in the background. Again, it’s not difficult to identify what needs fixing to make it go faster, you’ll probably need a developer to help do the tech bits.
Are your mobile and desktop versions the same:
Decisions may have been made to remove content originally on the desktop to feature on the mobile. You could say a light-weight or watered-down version of their desktop big brothers. Check the differences on m.putyoursitehere.com bearing in mind Google will be crawling your mobile first. With less content on the mobile version, what could that mean for your ranking?
D. So what does it mean for web design?
Yes here’s the sales pitch, but it’s a good one you won’t want to miss.
- We always prioritise mobile-first when conducting user research
- Which means any new designs are created mobile-first
- Which means we advocate responsive design and build
- Which means we still consider desktop and tablet
- Which means we put the user first
With many websites having mobile as the predominant device usage, Google is right to consider mobile-first.
Its focus is on the user
Now it’s down to you to follow their lead and ensure everything you do is customer-first.