Why mobile-first indexing will catch brands by surprise

What is ‘mobile-first’ indexing and what does it mean for my site?

In 2016, Google announced that they’d be introducing new criteria for a website to be well-optimised. The mobile-first indexing update to Google’s algorithm means that the mobile version of a website will now be used for ranking and indexing.Although this particular algorithm update is not directly linked to page speed, by improving website load times Google has said sites will benefit from a ranking boost. Sites also have a greater chance of receiving a ranking improvement if other websites in their industry have not been so forward-thinking.

How can i avoid being penalised by Google?

Some websites have varying content across their mobile and desktop sites. This is a tactic used to speed up a website as there is less content to load. But Google is likely to pick up on this and penalise the site for it. Google is also likely to penalise websites that aren’t yet encrypted, which means they’re less secure. Factors like these are rarely addressed until something like a ranking algorithm is announced.

Google is being characteristically mysterious about the details of when the mobile-first algorithm update is happening, but it’s supposed to be rolled out in July 2018. They’ve mentioned that websites which they feel are prepared for the update, may have already been moved over. This ‘move’ is actually the Google mobile crawl bot, crawling a website more frequently.

The reason behind many companies being caught out last minute by the algorithm update is that frequently SEO and web optimisation isn’t a priority. It can often be tricky for larger corporations to estimate a timeline needed for projects like HTTPS migration. HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) enables encrypted communication and secure connection between a remote user and the primary web server. Put simply, it’s merging the mobile and desktop versions of a site, which can take a long time for large, old sites.

There is also a need for collecting potential impact assessments of mobile optimisation – the reasons why it’s important to carry out fixes that could potentially be penalised and affect your site’s ranking. An intangible issue on-site that ‘could’ have a negative impact on rankings is hard to put a case together for. Especially in comparison to one which has already had a negative impact on rankings and traffic where the dip in data is clear for people to see.

So how can I prepare?

Here are a few ways you can help prepare yourself and your website for any Google algorithm update.

  1. Be flexible – the key to SEO success is implementing changes in a timely way.
  2. Remember the value of organic – many brands are focused on conversion and traffic yet can be slower to implement SEO recommendations. SEO can help improve both these metrics.
  3. Don’t have tunnel vision – focus on all potential website optimisation options and consider new options to improve website performance for the future instead of being reactive.
  4. Never stop learning – SEO is constantly changing. Keep an eye out for new thoughts and ideas on how to make your website better optimised, more user friendly and more attractive to Google.

Get in touch to talk to us about your SEO.