By Lawrence Dudley •

What You Need To Know About Google’s Mobile-First Indexing

digital agency in leeds and london - parallax

In 2016, desktop was overtaken by mobile as the primary means of accessing the Internet. This led to Google announcing that they would adopt mobile-first indexing. Essentially, they would use their mobile search results to populate desktop search results.

Having a mobile optimised site is no longer an option, it is a necessity, and even having a responsive design is not enough to top search results pages. Your website needs to be built for mobile, rather than being built for desktop.

In their drive to push site owners and designers towards a mobile-first approach, Google has introduced several tools to assist. These are a great place to start your mobile optimisation efforts, but for the best results, you should take your efforts further.

Search Console

Google’s Search Console looks at the technical elements of a web page:

  • It determines whether Flash is used, which does not render on a lot of mobile devices.
  • It checks whether the viewport meta tag is being used properly. It also determines whether a fixed-width viewport is being used, rather than a responsive one.
  • The Search Console also highlights whether a page must be scrolled horizontally for content to fit.
  • If the font size is too small, the Search Console will highlight this issue because it usually requires a user to zoom in.
  • It can even highlight problems that occur where touch elements of a page are too close together and, therefore, too fiddly for mobile users’ fingers.
  • Interstitials are full page pop-up ads. These have been popular for lead capture, but they are not mobile friendly. The Search Console will warn if your pages use this feature.

By fixing these problems, you can start to optimise a website for Google’s mobile-first indexing policy. If you want to reach the upper echelons of search results from now on, these elements should always be among your page design criteria.

AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, is a Google-led technology. Its aim is to improve the loading speed of mobile pages. Improving page load speed is not only important for search rankings but will have a direct effect on bounce rate and other page metrics. The average mobile user will click away from your website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, and Google claims that the median load time for a page that meets their AMP checks is just 0.7 seconds – considerably faster than the 3-second threshold.

AMP is open source, which means that it is freely accessible. It improves page load speed and, therefore, user experience for mobile browsers.

Platforms like WordPress have AMP plugins. These essentially create a second version of your cached pages. These AMP pages will usually be devoid of features like comments and other forms because they can greatly increase page load times. It will also use the AMP HTML, which is a subset of HTML, to help improve load speeds.

Page Load Speeds

Designers do not need to use AMP in order to achieve improved load speeds, but doing so can help ensure compliance with current and future Google requirements. What’s more, Twitter, Facebook, and other major websites are following Google’s lead because they also understand the importance of optimised mobile pages. By setting your website up now, using AMP markup, you have a better chance of your site enjoying better results on these sites in the future.

Always take mobile optimisation into account with future designs. Compress image files and video files. Consider offering a mobile app for download by visitors. Minimise the amount of text on a page, and use shorter sentences and paragraphs. Reduce page load times, and go beyond the basic use of responsive web design.

At Parallax, we can create optimised websites that are set up to take advantage of the mobile-first index, rather than simply complying with it. You could see improved search engine positions while also providing visitors with an improved mobile user experience.