What is the Mobile First Index?
Google announced its Mobile First Index officially on the 4th November, 2016. Speaking at Pubcon, Google’s Webmaster Trends analyst Gary Illyes said that Google would create a Mobile First Index within the next few months in 2017. This announcement wasn’t a shock to SEOs however, who have already prepared for ‘Mobilegeddon’ in 2015.
- Make sure your site is Responsive (Google recommended).
- Ensure your site’s usability is mobile friendly
- Make sure your site is optimised for optimum mobile speed
- Make sure you site content is easily accessible for mobile users
How can I make my site Mobile Friendly?
Google have already made strong indications as to us what they would take into account in a mobile first index search console and other tools in the last few years.
- Check the Mobile Usability under the Search Traffic menu in Google Search Console and optimise your site.
- Using Search Analytics under the Search Traffic menu in Google Search Console you can drill down into how different devices are interacting on your site.
- The Accelerated Mobile Pages tab under the Search Appearance menu also shows that Google sees this as one of the core parts of their approach to Mobile in 2017 and onwards.
Mobile is the new Primary Platform
2016 saw more people than ever before are searching on mobile devices. ComScore reported in 2016 that mobile now represents 65% of digital media time. Desktop as a platform has reduced by 12 percentage points since 2013.
What the new mobile index means:
- Ranking signals will come from the results of Google crawling your site from a mobile perspective.
- Important mobile factors such as site speed are more important than ever.
Google has said in this blog post, that:
“Our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site.”
Paul Haahr from Google also reiterated this by saying:
“Index of mobile pages for mobile users and index of desktop pages for desktop users won’t happen.”
Mobile Optimisation Checklist
- Use Responsive design
- Ensure best-in-class Page speed
- Ensure fastest possible Hosting speed
- Keep key CTAs (Calls to Action) clear and above the fold
- Keep menus short, accessible and to the point
- Allow easy navigation back to the home page
- Prioritise key content and products
- Make site search easily accessible
- Ensure site search results are relevant for the user.
- Design efficient forms for mobile users.
- Optimise your entire site for the mobile user-experience first.
- Don’t make users zoom in to view content on mobile.
- Optimise product images and CTAs for mobile experience
Is your site Mobile Friendly? Check with these Mobile Optimisation Tools:
- Mobile-Friendly Websites — https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/
- Mobile-Friendly Test — https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly
- Mobile Usability Report — https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6101188?hl=en
- Website Test with Google — https://testmysite.withgoogle.com/
- Google Analytics – Site Speed Suggestions — https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1205784?hl=en
- Make the Web Faster — https://developers.google.com/speed/
- AMP — https://www.ampproject.org/
- Bing Mobile Friendliness Tool – https://www.bing.com/webmaster/tools/mobile-friendliness
- Ready.mobi – Mobile Visualisation Tool – http://ready.mobi/
- Varvy – https://varvy.com/mobile/
Common Mobile-usability errors
The Mobile Friendly Test tool can identify the following usability errors:
1. Flash usage
“Most mobile browsers do not render Flash-based content. Therefore, mobile visitors will not be able to use a page that relies on Flash in order to display content, animations, or navigation. Google recommend designing your look and feel and page animations using modern web technologies. Read more about Look and Feel in our Web Fundamentals guide.”
2. Viewport not configured
“Because visitors to your site use a variety of devices with varying screen sizes—from large desktop monitors, to tablets and small smartphones—your pages should specify a viewport using the
meta viewporttag. This tag tells browsers how to adjust the page’s dimension and scaling to suit the device. Learn more in Responsive Web Design Basics.”
3. Fixed-width viewport
“This report shows those pages with a viewport set to a fixed width. Some web developers define the viewport to a fixed pixel size in order to adjust a non-responsive page to suit common mobile screen sizes. To fix this error, adopt a responsive design for your site’s pages, and set the viewport to match the device’s width and scale accordingly. Read how to correctly Set the Viewport in our Web Fundamentals.”
4. Content not sized to viewport
“This report indicates pages where horizontal scrolling is necessary to see words and images on the page. This happens when pages use absolute values in CSS declarations, or use images designed to look best at a specific browser width (such as 980px). To fix this error, make sure the pages use relative width and position values for CSS elements, and make sure images can scale as well. Read more in Size Content to Viewport.”
5. Small font size
“This report identifies pages where the font size for the page is too small to be legible and would require mobile visitors to “pinch to zoom” in order to read. After specifying a viewport for your web pages, set your font sizes to scale properly within the viewport. Read more about font size best practices in Use Legible Font Sizes.”
6. Touch elements too close
“This report shows the URLs for sites where touch elements, such as buttons and navigational links, are so close to each other that a mobile user cannot easily tap a desired element with their finger without also tapping a neighbouring element. To fix these errors, make sure to correctly size and space buttons and navigational links to be suitable for your mobile visitors. Read more in Size Tap Targets Appropriately.”
7. Interstitial usage
“Some websites have begun advertising their mobile apps by opening an interstitial popup when users browse their site on a mobile device. This is a bad user experience since screen space on a mobile device is limited; in most cases, an interstitial obscures the page content, and often it can be difficult to dismiss. If you want to promote a mobile app on your website, consider using iOS Smart Banners, Chrome Native App Banners, or App Indexing to show an install button for your app directly in Google search results.”
Watch a video on Google’s Mobile First Index below:
Barry Schwartz explains the Mobile First Index and other updates in the video below.