Google’s Mobile-First Index Is Live (Sorta): What Does That Mean for You?

Almost exactly a year ago, Google announced its mobile-first index was coming. About a month ago, rumors started hitting the web when John Mueller (Google Search Engineer) hinted that they were indeed testing their mobile-first index in live search results. Recently, they finally confirmed officially the roll-out has begun. Gary Illyes, one of Google’s key search engineers, announced that the mobile-first index has started a slow roll out, hinting that testing and quality control is a huge concern of theirs as they continue to launch this new algorithm change. What does this mean for you – the business owner who wants their website to rank well?

The good news is, if you are already an Autoshop Solutions’ client, you are taken care of completely! We saw the writing on the wall years ago, and in January 2016 we officially planted our feet in the mobile-first philosophy. If you aren’t with us, or if you have a website that hasn’t planned to cater to its mobile visitors, you may start seeing a decline in your ROI from organic search results. This will not be an overnight change, as Google is currently testing its new algorithm changes against actual, live content in a slow and controlled way. This will be a testing period where Google learns how its proposed changes will affect the search engine results. If tests show positive correlations for catering to mobile users (Hint: It will), then we will start seeing bigger and bigger roll outs as time goes on.

What sort of things is Google looking for with its new mobile-first index? Even in a perfect world where this has been out for years, it would be difficult to say for sure what Google is looking for. That said, there are a few safe bets that you could “take to the bank” on this one in terms of the things Google may be looking for. Those things are:

Site Responsiveness

Is your site responsive to the device the user is using? Can your site display accurately on devices on all sizes? Do you have a mobile-specific version of your website? Do you only have one version of your website that caters to desktops?

Site Load Time

Does your website load quickly? Bounce rates tend to be higher with mobile users, as their patience tolerance is quite a bit lower than their desktop counterparts. With some people still limited by phone speed, does your website make an effort to load quickly on subpar networks?

Site Content and How It Displays

Does your content show accurately on a mobile phone? How about a mobile phone with different dimensions? How about a tablet? Having content that shows accurately no matter what device you are on is essential moving forward.

Site Usability

Do your menus, content, and other web attributes resize to be usable for users on mobile phones? Making a responsive website that adjusts not just the content, but the menu and other usability functions of a website isn’t just recommended, it’s critically necessary.

So what does this mean moving forward? Well, if you aren’t designing for mobile now, you are already behind. This signifies a much larger dichotomy change in web design and internet marketing overall. Five years ago, we would have told you to design your desktop site to look great, and to have a mobile site on the back burner just in case. Two years ago, we would have told you to plan to have a mobile version of your website that is just as compelling as your desktop version. Today, designers need to start thinking their mobile layouts as their primary design, with the desktop version being the one seen by “outliers.” Welcome to the future – we’re here to help.

Written by Charlie Needham

Charlie is a Search Marketing Specialist at Autoshop Solutions. When not practicing and perfecting the dark art known as search engine optimization, Charlie likes to spend his time getting into various forms of adventurous hijinks.

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