The time is now

Posted by Dave CollinsSEO

One of the biggest changes in SEO is now underway.

And it’s going to affect every business with a website. If that includes you – read on.

Some time ago I wrote about Google’s plans for a mobile-first index.

At the time I wrote that “this is something that you’re going to have to do sooner or later“.

Well, it looks like that time has just become sooner rather than later.

What’s happening?

Google are in the process of moving everything over to a mobile-first index.

Once this transition has finished, Google will rank search listings based on the mobile version of content.

If someone is searching on a desktop device, they’ll still see rankings based on the mobile version.

What does this actually mean for you?

Pay careful attention to the name.

It’s called mobile-first, not mobile-only.

If your website has a mobile version, Google will be more interested in that.

You don’t have a mobile version? Google have said not to worry. I disagree. More of that later.

And if your mobile website has less content than your desktop version, you might also have a problem.

What’s changed?

In November 2017 Google wrote a blog post on Mobile-first Indexing, and said that “we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first”.

On March 26th 2018, Google wrote a new blog post on Rolling out mobile-first indexing, and said that “we continue to encourage webmasters to make their content mobile-friendly.”

If Google consider your website to be mobile-friendly, you don’t have a problem.

If it isn’t mobile-friendly, you now have an opportunity to do something about it before you feel the pain.

How can you tell if you have a problem?

Google have a mobile-friendly test.

You put in a URL from your website, and get a thumbs-up or thumbs-down in a few seconds.

Hopefully you’ll see something like this:

The page IS mobile friendly!

Note that this doesn’t scan the whole of your website, just one single page.

So at the very least you want to check your home page, main pages and each page type.

If you don’t pass the test, you’ll get something that looks like the version below. But note that Google are giving you some level of advice on what to do about it:

The page IS NOT mobile friendly! Sorry!

What can you do if you fail?

You have several options to choose from, but only one of them is realistic in my opinion.

The bad option: Do nothing and hope that Google still pay attention to your content.

This is wishful thinking.

Google are all about the user experience.

If they have the option of serving your non-mobile-friendly website in the search results, or the mobile-friendly content from your competition, whose do you think they’re more likely to rank highly?

Another bad option: Create a separate mobile version of your website for Google.

Something like m.yoursite.com.

But this is a temporary solution to an issue that isn’t going to go away anytime soon. If ever.

This option would probably mean that you’re running and hosting two separate websites, with the same content in two different places.

Both versions would need updating.

You’re setting yourself up for a series of horrible headaches in the future.

And who wants more headaches than they need?

This is a sticky plaster that is almost certain to get infected.

Good but horrible option: Take the plunge and get your website mobile-friendly.

If you’re lucky, this will involve a few basic changes, or perhaps using a new template.

If not, it may get painful.

But here’s the nub of the issue.

Google understand that not only is mobile use going to keep growing, but the lines between desktop, tablet and mobile are getting ever-blurrier.

This problem isn’t going to go away.

It’s better to face it head on. Whatever needs to be done.

The three mistakes

Don’t make the three classic mobile mistakes.

The first mistake is to look at your Analytics, see that only a very small number of your visitors are on mobile devices, and decide that mobile doesn’t apply to you.

You might well be seeing so few mobile visitors because Google aren’t showing it to mobile searches.

Chicken and egg

The second mistake is to confuse a responsive web site with mobile friendly.

A responsive website is one that adapts to the screen size – whether desktop, mobile or tablet.

It doesn’t matter if your web template or your website designer is adamant that yours is mobile friendly.

All that matters is what Google think.

The third mistake is to wait for this problem to disappear. As painful as it may be to fix your whole website, this problem isn’t going away.

And failure to do something about it now may result in an unprecedented drop in traffic from Google.

Please don’t wait for this happen.

And finally…

Mobile-friendly isn’t a black and white issue.

Even if you pass the Mobile-Friendly test, you might still be able to further improve your mobile friendliness.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights is another Google tool (aren’t they kind?) that will grade your website’s performance for desktop and mobile.

If this leaves you slightly puzzled, as Google are trying to move over to one set of standards, well, you’re in good company.

But aside from the self-perpetuating-confusion, this is an extremely useful tool.

They’ll not only tell you how you perform, but also give you tips to further improve your speed.

One last thing.

If you need to fix your website, this isn’t a service that we provide, so this isn’t some sort of cunning sales pitch,.

But if you’re worried about your website and how mobile-friendly it might be, just get in touch and let me know your concerns.

I’ll do my best to help.