Earlier this year, Google announced the introduction of the mobile-first index. This announcement stated that Google will crawl, index and rank a page based on the mobile version of a website, instead of the desktop versions of the site. The introduction and roll-out of this meant that Google would now be more favourable to websites that are responsive and perform well across multiple devices – particularly mobile.
It’s important to recognise that indexing and ranking are not the same thing. Indexing is the process of scanning and storing a web page on a search engine’s index. There are several things you can do to improve the number of pages on your website that are indexed.
Ranking is where a search engine assesses the information on its index and establishes which pages best match the search query – a number of factors are used to calculate this, device is only one of them.
Google warned that while it’s true that mobile-first would be a big change, rankings wouldn’t necessarily change. For most websites, as long as their website was optimised, the mobile-first index shouldn’t change much for search engine rankings.
But, Why Does Mobile-First Matter?
Buyers frequently use multiple devices throughout their buyers’ journey. I know I’ve done it, and I’m sure you have too. Perhaps you research your problem on mobile, then later on when you have more time you look into other solutions on a desktop or tablet. Then when you’ve made your decision, you may decide to check-out on a mobile device.
So, mobile-first purely refers to the design and development of a website that prioritises a user’s mobile experience over that on desktop site. It should be responsive.
The fact that the mobile-site is now indexed means that if your website continues to display incorrectly on mobile phones, or if your users cannot easily do they things they’d like on your website; and if it is not optimised correctly, then you will start to be ranked lower on search results pages. Any your competitors could start to overtake you.
The number one advantage of a responsive website is the assurance that any user on any device will have the best and most reliable experience on your website.
Ok, So What Happens If My Website Isn’t Responsive?
Responsive is about making your website easy to use on multiple devices. Essentially, if you don’t have a mobile website, you could be losing out to others that do.
By having a ‘responsive’ website, it means the usability of the website has been adjusted to allow a better performance for users on mobile. The result is that users are much more likely to have a better experience on your website and will therefore spend more time engaging with your content. This is something that Google favours.
A prime example of making a website more responsive is to eliminate tiny buttons, especially those that are too close together, and either remove them altogether or make them larger. You should also have readable text, and no need for horizontal scroll; your content should adapt to the screen size. No one wants to have to scroll unnecessarily and zoom in or out to see or engage with content.
If you change the layout and design of your website so that it responds to the devices your users are viewing your website on, then could be rewarded not only by your users but also by search engines who will respond to the fact that users are spending more time on your site and engaging with more pages and more of your content.
If you’re unsure about the mobile-friendliness of your website, use the Mobile-Friendly Tool by Google.
It’s worth mentioning that some CMS’ (Content Management Systems) have responded better than others to mile first and allow you to customise specific elements. So if you’re seeing a drop in clicks or visits on Google Search Console it’s worth checking when Google began prioritising the mobile version of your website to see if there is any correlation here. You should have received an email from the Google Search Console Team notifying you when mobile-first indexing was enabled for your website.
Reasons to Have a Responsive Website
It’s more important than ever to have a website with responsive design to:
- Expand reach to customers and clients on small screens,
- Create a stable experience that can increase lead generation, sales and conversions,
- Analytics, tracking and reporting can all be in one location,
Responsive web design does provide a more positive user experience, but it also provides a positive perception of your brand and your business. We’d all like our content to be shared on social media too, right? Well, with responsive design, your content will be easier to share too so it can be seen by more people and helps you to grow a larger and more engaged audience.
Additionally, we know that site speed is a ranking factor. This means that sites that are responsive will generally load faster which is likely to boost your visibility and rankings.
So, while we mentioned earlier that mobile-first indexing won’t directly affect rankings, responsive design should certainly have an impact.
Can you really afford not to have a responsive website?
Mobile first design, simply put, must become the standard for websites.