12 Apr Mobile-First Indexing
Last November, Google revealed it was shifting its classic desktop index to a mobile-first version. This natural response to an increased number of mobile internet users initially caused some havoc. Several questions zipped through forums and inside companies whose sites were either optimized for desktop use or didn’t have mobile versions at all. In fact, there are still concerns about whether certain site-holders have to fret about the change. If you’re one of them, rest easy with the knowledge that, odds are, you’re not going to have to make any major changes to your website. However, some of you might, which is what we’re about to outline.
If you’re unsure about what this indexing thing is all about, we’ve got you covered too.
Essentially, indexing is how Google adds webpages to its search database. First, Google crawls (locates) sites, then retrieves all relevant data associated with them. At around the same time retrieval takes place, the thing almost everyone fears happens. Gasp – ranking. During this process, the search engine will measure the quality of your site’s content and compare it to others around the world.
Only a handful of people will be affected by the change. Surprisingly, it’s not those without mobile sites that will find themselves in a tizzy, since Google will just proceed to rank the desktop site, however unkempt it might be. The groups who will have to fret are those whose mobile versions don’t include the same content as their desktop counterparts, or have separate websites for larger computers and phones altogether. If there’s crucial info on your desktop site that isn’t included in the mobile version, the now-dominant mobile Googlebot will bypass it because it’s trained to index mobile sites first. So, the lacking and potentially non-functional mobile webpage will be the one people see on the search engine when they type it in.
What do I do?
Depending on how up-to-date and well-designed your site is, it might just be better to start from scratch and make a brand new one to “wow” your visitors and Google alike. But whether your site needs a lot of work or just a few tweaks, here’s what we recommend:
1) Make it responsive
This is the big one. Responsive designs have flexible layouts and images, which automatically adjust themselves to match whatever device viewers are searching on. To ensure sites are scaled and sized properly, developers can use CSS Bootstrap (or other mobile-first design frameworks, such as MDL and Foundation) to modify how sites will look on an array of different devices. The framework has a 12 column breakpoint system that allows developers to change the layout of their design based on screen size.
2) Use high-res images
You really can’t go wrong by putting razor sharp pictures on your site. If you don’t, they could appear overly blurry on larger screens. Developers can do this by applying the latest compression techniques to images. One does not simply let things remain blurry, after all.
3) Eliminate default zoom on mobile devices
If you’ve ever gone on a site on your phone and noticed that it inconveniently magnified everything so that it was awkward to navigate, you know what I’m talking about. It makes for an unpleasant user experience and to avoid it, be sure to make the CSS adjustments previously described and thoroughly test your site on all types of devices to make sure it looks great and works properly.
4) Don’t think of your mobile site as more important than everything else
I know this might seem contradictory, what with the whole mobile-first indexing thing, but millions of people still prefer checking out webpages on desktops and tablets. So, make sure you properly care for all of your site’s formats.
Mobile-first indexing is a great reason for people to update their websites. Even if a formal declaration of the rise of mobile user-ship wasn’t announced, it’s become evident that internet-use trends are heading in that direction. So, if Google can help get us up and running to meet the needs of viewers across all platforms, I say hoorah!