Virtually all Americans (91 percent, according to Pew Research) have some type of mobile device and 56 percent own smartphones. In addition, an increasing number of consumers (currently 65 percent) consult their mobile devices before making a purchasing decision, sometimes even when they are inside a store. That means if you own a restaurant, a heating and cooling company, a real estate agency, a dress shop or any consumer business, you need to be visible on mobile devices to attract potential customers and get them the information they need quickly on-the-go.
Google, ever in tune with consumer browsing habits, has recently modified its mobile search configuration to make it easier for shoppers to get and easily read the information they need. This new configuration initiative is called Mobile First Index.
What is Google’s Mobile First Index?
Launched in November, 2016, Google Mobile First makes it so that consumers automatically see the mobile version of your website (if you have one available) when they search from a mobile device. If there is no mobile version, the consumer is shown the regular, desk-top version. According to Google, Mobile First will have no effect on search engine result rankings, however cumbersome desk-top versions my not show your brand to its full advantage on a mobile phone. The Google Mobile First reconfiguration will be rolled out over a period of several months.
How Google Mobile First will affect your business
The major (and somewhat subtle) difference in traditional search results and the new Mobile First results is that mobile users will automatically see the mobile version of your site. This generally means that they will be seeing less information. For instance, if you’re a real estate agent with thumbnails of current listings displayed across your home page, you may want to scale back the amount of information on your home page rather than clutter a small screen with so much data that it is near impossible to read. Better to have a few listings and links to direct users to information on other, complementary pages. (While, “read more” content used to not get indexed by Google, these adjunct pages WILL be indexed with the home page in the new Google Mobile First environment.)
How can you reap the benefits offered by Google’s Mobile First index initiative? Below are just a few suggestions: (Note: if you already have a mobile-friendly site that responds automatically to a variety of screen sizes and formats, you’re already primed to take advantage of tje benefits of Mobile First Index.)
- Clearly define your desktop and your mobile versions. Make it easy for Google to tell when version of your site is which by clearly defining both options in the mark-up language. However, avoid using any language in markup that isn’t directly related to the content on the page.
- Test to see if Google recognizes your mobile site. Make sure that Google recognizes your site by testing it with robots.txt tester.
- Forget traditional SEO rules. If you are still spending time optimizing your content along the lines of traditional search engine optimization rules, you can throw out those guidelines in favor of tighter, more user-friendly displays and concise descriptions and meta data.
- Check your loading speed. Those elements that formerly attracted users, such as videos and multiple images on your home page, may cause you to lose ranking in the new Google Mobile First environment. If your site loads more slowly than other similar sites, it could cause Google to view your site less favorably.
- See what Google sees. Unlike previous roll-outs, you don’t have to guess about what Google is seeing of your site. You can use the “Fetch as Googlebot” option and see what Google sees.
- Consider augmenting your mobile site with a free consumer app. Directing your customers to a mobile, downloadable app is another way you can better define your brand and get the information your customers need to them quickly and efficiently, according to “Forbes.com“. In our example of the real estate company, you might use your home page to direct consumers to download the app, where they could be alerted about and view properties that match their buying criteria.
While the gradual global roll-out of the Google Mobile First Index isn’t going to change the business landscape overnight, the subtle changes in this reconfiguration from favoring desk-top to mobile versions will help those businesses who optimize their sites for mobile access to thrive in the increasingly, to-the-go consumer business environment.