Until this past March, Google’s bots crawled, indexed and ranked sites based on the desktop version. Now that has all changed and the search engine first uses the mobile version of a website for indexing and to determine search rankings. The purpose of this “mobile-first” indexing update is to provide better search results for users, especially since an increasing number of people are conducting most of their searches on a mobile device. So, what does this mean for your company’s website?
If you don’t have a mobile version of your site or the site design isn’t responsive with content optimized for mobile, the bots will continue to crawl the desktop version instead. This might not sound like an issue since your site is still being crawled, but the lack of a mobile-friendly site can have a negative impact your search rankings.
Due to the prevalence of smart phones and other mobile devices, having a responsive website that is also optimized for mobile use is not just a good idea, but a necessity. Without it, you’re risking search engine penalties and frustrated users, which ultimately hurts your company’s online credibility and costs you potential sales.
A Mobile-Friendly Design Improves Usability and Search Rankings
Having a website for your business is only the first step in creating an authoritative presence online. The quality of your website and how beneficial it proves to be for users has lasting impacts on your business. One of the ways that you improve the quality of your website is through mobile responsive design.
Seamless User Experience on Your Responsive Website
Almost 60% of web traffic comes from mobile devices, and users expect that if they visit a website from their smart phone, it will be as easy to use as the desktop version. If your website is not responsive, users may need to zoom, shrink, and otherwise manipulate your website to make it useful, leaving many frustrated and likely to leave your website quickly.
A responsive site is not the same as a mobile-friendly site, however. While a site can look nice on a mobile phone, if it doesn’t perform the actions that it needs to, then it is not truly responsive. Many mobile-friendly sites create a secondary URL, often known as the “M dot” because of the popular m.website.com format. The content on the mobile site is typically a scaled down version of what appears on the full desktop site and provides users with limited content. With a responsive design, there is only one URL that seamlessly adjusts to varying devices.
A site that is designed for mobile-first indexing must have quality content that is optimized for both users and search engines. They need to be able to get the same information they would on a desktop version of your site, but in a design that makes it easy to navigate the content on a much smaller screen. Page load speeds must also be optimized to improve user experience and reduce bounce rates that can impact your rankings.
Higher Search Engine Rankings and Improved SEO When Your Website is Responsive
Google places priority on websites that have responsive design for several reasons. Firstly, they utilize only one URL, making the website easier for a search engine to crawl and index. The one URL also makes it easier for users to share and link to content, improving the overall SEO of your website. Finally, the single website eliminates potential duplicate content penalties.
Responsive websites also perform better in search engines because the rankings are partially based on user-experience. If your site receives high bounce rates, this will negatively impact your search rankings.
It’s fine to continue using separate mobile and desktop versions of your site – so long as both are kept updated and optimized to provide both types of users with usable, well-organized content. In these cases, the site that Google displays in the SERP will depend on the type of device being used: desktop users will be shown the desktop version and mobile-users will see the mobile version of your site.
Additional Benefits of Preparing Your Site for Mobile-First Indexing
Having a mobile-friendly website is important for Google’s indexing changes but there are other benefits to having a single site that works across a range of devices.
Responsive Websites Create Lower Cost and Website Maintenance
Creating a mobile responsive design takes less time than creating an additional stand-alone mobile site. Even if the upfront costs may seem more expensive with a responsive website, having only one website saves a considerable amount of development time, as well as long-term maintenance costs. Having an additional mobile site to manage would require double the testing, support, and content strategies.
Improved Page Speed on Mobile and Desktop
Responsive websites tend to have faster page load time, and this is important for many reasons. Google uses page speed as one of its ranking factors for search results and the sites with faster load times are more likely to rank higher. Improved page speeds create a more user-friendly website. Particularly on mobile devices, most users are looking for quick answers, and a page that takes too long to load is frustrating and alienates potential customers.
This post has been update to reflect mobile-first indexing.