5 Ways to be Mobile First in 2018

It’s hard to believe 2017 is already coming to a close, but here we are. A new year is just a few days away, and we’re looking ahead at one of this year’s biggest trends and rapidly evolving platforms: mobile.

Mobile searches have been picking up steam for a while now, and they show no signs of stopping in 2018. We all know by now that 60% of searches are happening on mobile devices. That’s why Google is switching to a mobile-first index in 2018, and why mobile is going to drive SEO even more in the months to come.

Still don’t understand why a mobile-first strategy matters? The short answer is Google will start to look at your site’s mobile experience to determine your ranking. In other words, Google is going to see your mobile site as your “real site,” without exception. So, if your mobile site isn’t up to par, your ranking will definitely take a hit.

If your site’s already responsive, you don’t have much to worry about, and you’re ready for a mobile-first index. If your site’s not responsive, all is not lost. There are plenty of ways you can improve your mobile experience in time. Be proactive to make sure your SEO thrives rather than suffers after this change.

If you haven’t begun thinking about shifting your strategy for mobile-first indexing, you can get started now and be well ahead of the coming changes.

Here are the five ways to be totally ready for a mobile-first world.

1. Get Up to Speed

You’ll want to be sure your site’s pages are loading very quickly – think lightening speed. Page speed is a major factor in SEO, and it’s even more important on mobile.

What mobile users want to sit and watch a page load? If you make them wait, they’ll just hit the back button and move on.

We’ve talked before about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs), which can make your mobile site pages load up to four times as fast. That adds up to just about a half a second to load, compared to about three seconds for a normal mobile page to load.

While AMPs haven’t been perfect since they first launched last year, Google keep pushing out updates to improve them. If you’re ready to make the switch, Google’s AMP tutorial is a good place to start.

Another way to quickly bring up site speed without losing much is to reduce photo and file sizes on your site. Do an audit of the files on your pages and see what files you can bring down to amp up your page speed with minimal effort.

2. Re-Design For Mobile

You might love the way your site looks, but what about how it performs? Is it truly mobile-friendly to your users?

Take a closer look at how your site works on mobile and decide what needs to change. One thing to consider in your design is size. How big are the fonts and buttons? Is it easy for users to click and move around your site on a smaller device?

Try to keep your fonts up to at least 14 pixels, and use buttons that are at least 44 by 44 pixels in size to ensure the best possible user experience on mobile.

You also want to think about what could be distracting for users. Though they can work great on desktop, pop-ups and banner refreshes are a bad idea on mobile devices.

Most of all, you want to simplify your design. Take out unnecessary padding and formatting, as well as tables or frames. When it comes to forms, let people use alternative methods to typing in their information by integrating checklists and dropdown menus as much as possible.

3. Put It All Out There

You’ve probably seen a lot of mobile sites that tease out a paragraph or two of content on a page, and then you get a “see more” button before you can read the rest. That kind of hidden content will become a thing of the past starting 2018.

That’s because all of that hidden content is also hidden from Google, and going forward, that’ll definitely hurt your SEO with mobile-first indexing. Now, you’ll have to put all your content front and center on your mobile site, and keep it consistent with the desktop version.

Do a full comparison of your mobile site against your desktop site and make sure all the content is available and readable on both to ensure Google’s seeing it all, too.

4. Test and Verify

There are a ton of tests you can do to be sure your site is mobile-first-ready. First, check that your site’s accessible to Googlebots, which will help your rankings. You can run a txt testing tool to find out.

You can also compare your desktop and mobile sites by using Google’s structured data tests. It’ll show you the errors you need to correct on your mobile site. Also try Google’s mobile testing available in WebSite Auditor, under Content Analysis. Simply enter the URL you want to test, switch to Technical factors, and scroll down to Page usability (Mobile).

Then, on Google’s Search Console, be sure to verify the mobile version of your site. Even if you’ve already verified it on your desktop version, you’ll now need to verify the mobile one, too.

Remember that “mobile first” means you truly have to do everything first on the mobile version of your site for it to count in Google’s eyes.

5. Become Responsive

The absolute best thing you can do is make the switch to a fully responsive site. Yes, there’s still time (for now) before mobile-first indexing begins to roll out, as sites are ready, sometime in 2018.

If you wait to migrate to a responsive site after the mobile-friendly index roll out, then Google will index your mobile site’s content first.

That means your responsive site migration will take longer, because Google is not just updating URLs but also the content within your pages. So the sooner you make the switch, the better.

What are the benefits of being responsive? Your design will adapt to whatever screen it’s being viewed on, from desktop to mobile to tablets. This is going to give users a more seamless experience across their devices.

Also, your overall costs for hosting your site will go down. While you’ll rack up a few costs in the beginning as you migrate your design, it’ll be much less cost-intensive over time when you only have a single site to maintain, rather than two version of the same site to manage.

While we’re still not sure exactly when mobile-first indexing will begin to roll out, or how long the process will take, Google has promised to clearly communicate what’s happening and when. Get as prepared now, though to mitigate any possible risks to your site’s SEO.

Tell us how you’re getting prepared for Google’s mobile-first index.

Is your site already responsive? Have you adapted your mobile site to be more user friendly? What kind of testing and auditing have you done to gear up for this big change? Anything we missed?

Tell us in the comments.

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