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Is your website prepared for Google’s mobile first index?

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Is your website prepared for Google’s mobile first index?

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This past November Google announced [1] that it was starting to test indexing their mobile index as the primary index above desktop.

Prior to this announcement Google was using the desktop version of sites to feed the algorithm despite the fact that user behavior has shifted towards the majority being mobile.

We all know as consumers ourselves that this is the pervasive moment towards mobile isn’t going to stop anytime soon.

People spend 177 minutes per day on their mobile phone. Google themselves admits that this, like hundreds of others that are ongoing, is just a test. They also have said that they expect various elements to change in their importance throughout this evolution.

However for Google, this is a first step towards the future of search engine rankings changes. Are brands prepared and what changes need to be made to ensure that your rankings are preserved or increased?

First, let’s look at how prepared brands are for this shift. We took a look at the first page of search engine rankings and compared their mobile friendlieness and mobile page speed scores based on Google’s “Test My Site” tool that can be found here – https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/ [2]

What we found was that top ranking brands websites are in great shape as it relates to being mobile friendly.

Mobile friendly is basically a website that is either responsive or mobile specific. Put another way, if you are showing your desktop site via mobile browser this is NOT you. In fact, 90% of websites in the top 10 of organic results had a mobile friendliness score of >=99.

The lowest score was just one lonely 93 in the 9th spot which looks really bad given the Y-axis in the below chart. So in general, highly ranking sites do really well in the mobile friendly category. This is great for these brands going forward and great for consumers who expect a mobile specific experience when on a mobile device.

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Now let’s shift to mobile page speed. This is one of the ranking factors Google has said they are not yet weighing too heavily into the algorithm, but they expect to increase its weight in the future.

Mobile page speed is important since nearly half of all visitors will leave a mobile site if the pages don’t load within 3 seconds. This is a place where brands need some help.

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This data set had no score higher than 63 and all the way down to low 40’s. This is the case with just the top 10 organic rankings. I have seen much worse scores, as low as zero. I am always surprised by these scores, especially with mobile friendliness scores so high.

So what is the take away from this? I think it’s 2 things: 1) We are in the early stages of mobile adoption so we as an industry are trying to define the best practices. 2) There is opportunity to gain some ground in the battle for organic ranking supremacy.   As the algorithm evolves there will be a chance to beat these brands at the mobile arms race.

I recommend 3 things;

  • If your site isn’t mobile friendly yet stop all that you are doing and fix it immediately.
  • Test your site against Google’s current best practices. How do you score? What are the things that you can impact that would improve your score without giving up on items you might feel are important to your customer experience?
  • Don’t forget about paid search. In mobile paid search is getting a large amount of market share. I know mobile conversion rates are lower and brands struggle with this, but look at it from the consumer experience. Is this a place that consumers would think to find you and experience your products?

The mobile world is an important one and having the right customer experience and strong search rankings is a moving target, but one that with careful monitoring you can be effective.

Written with assistance from Jordan Hershman

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References

  1. ^ Google announced (webmasters.googleblog.com)
  2. ^ https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/ (testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com)
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