What Is Google’s Mobile-First Index (and Its Impact on Your Website)
As a website owner seeking your claim to fame, you’ve known since the moment you chose to create a website that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a high priority, which is why now is a great time to tune in. SEO is a constantly evolving field and there are a lot of modifications in the way Google ranks websites. But the web design community was recently shaken by a true revolution called mobile-first index. This huge buzzword has been spreading in the past year and a half, and up until now, we only knew that it meant Google’s algorithms would rank websites – which includes your website – based on their mobile version, first and foremost.
Since March 2018, the mobile-first transformation has been happening for real. As a vast majority of your visitors are already seeing your website from their smartphone, you need to pay a great deal of attention to it. More specifically, you really need to provide your users with an equally fulfilling experience on smartphones and desktops when entering your site. Hence, it’s time to tune up your mobile site full throttle, and we’re here to help.
What is the mobile-first index?
Historically, in order to index web pages, Google used to evaluate their desktops’ versions first and foremost. To put it simply, indexing is the process by which a search engine scans and saves the information from a website. Based on this information, the algorithm can then decide what will be the ranking of the website for a specific keyword search. But since more and more people are accessing websites from these tiny things called smartphones (and tablets), the emphasis put on desktops for the indexing process didn’t really make sense anymore. This is why Google announced in November 2016 a project to reverse the way pages were indexed: mobile-first indexing.
The concept behind this quite frightening name is actually easy to understand. It means that the mobile version will be considered the primary version of your website when it comes to indexing. It’s important to note that the “mobile-first” is not a “mobile-only:” sites that don’t have a mobile version will be indexed based only on the desktop one, risking to fall second to ones with mobile versions in the ranking competition.
It’s only very recently, on March 26, 2018, to be precise, that Google officially announced the implementation of this revolution. The first batch of websites is already affected, but the ultimate goal is to cover all pages on the World Wide Web. And yes, it means yours too.
Is your website ready?
The mobile-first index revolution means that your website needs to have a mobile version as perfectly optimized as its desktop one if it wants to stand a chance in the “page-one-ranking” competition. One of the first things you should do is check if your web designer or website builder can deliver a mobile-friendly version of your site. Then take a moment to browse your website from a smartphone to make sure all your content fits in an easily readable manner. You’ll see that there might be many things for you to improve – from the content to the navigation and the layout. You might even need to create a mobile website from scratch.
If you’re a Wix user, the story has a happier ending. You can sit back, grab an iced coffee, and prop your feet up because you just received your ‘get out of jail free card.’ That’s right: you already have a mobile website, whose structure is fully optimized for the mobile-first indexing. When you create the desktop version of your website, the Wix Editor automatically produces its smartphone/tablet equivalent. The exact same content is preserved and duplicated, from your internal linking and menu options to the very alt text of your images. It’s a big game-changer, as the golden rule for standing a chance to rank high is to keep your data consistent across the different versions of your site (desktop and mobile).
So, now that you’ve made your edits or finished your coffee (because you’re a Wix user), you’re wondering when your website will enter the mobile-first index. Google will notify you via Search Console messages. This is Google’s command center for site owners to understand all things organic-related – don’t worry, here’s an article that’ll explain and help you set up your Google Search Console account.
Bonus: 7 tips to enhance the mobile version of your site
Now we’ve seen that thanks to the Wix Mobile Editor, you don’t have to worry about the consequences of the mobile-first index. Yet, you might want to offer your visitors an even better mobile user experience. Here are few simple steps to make the most out of your existing content:
There’s already a lot you can do for the mobile version of your website while working on the desktop version. For example, it’s highly recommended to implement a structure based on strips and columns and to group elements together. Using these techniques when designing for your desktop site will make your mobile site look extra clean, as they are built to be flexible and fit any screen and device. Here are some instructions to implement the perfect strips and columns, and group elements. Conversely, it’s best to avoid big text and blank spaces, as they won’t flow well with the mobile design.
Add a Quick Action Bar (QAB)
The QAB is an informational triggering section that appears when users visit your site. It presents them with instant buttons to your most strategic locations so that they don’t have to search your menu erratically. You can customize the exact actions that’ll be displayed on the bar, such as a link to your Facebook page, access to your blog and sending a direct email. To set up the QAB, simply access your ‘Mobile Editor’ and turn on the ‘Quick Action Bar’ under the ‘Mobile Tools’ menu item.
Optimize your mobile layout
With the Wix Editor, you have the ability to drag boxes of content and images around, to obtain the exact result you envision for the mobile version of your site. However, if you’re not a professional web designer, or simply aren’t sure of how you want your layout to look, there’s a feature that’s right for you. All you need to do is access the Page Layout Optimizer and click ‘Optimize Now.’ The Editor will automatically move things around so that it fits neatly the grids of any small screen.
Customize your menu
You can entirely customize your mobile menu, from its design (colors, themes, sizes, etc.) to the way it opens (left-side, center, or right-side). This way, navigation is truly optimized for mobile users. The best thing is that all the changes you’ll make on your mobile menu won’t affect the desktop one. Just click on the menu icon in your Mobile Editor and play around with the different ways to customize your mobile menu.
Hide the unnecessary elements
As we said, the Wix Editor automatically duplicates your desktop website into the mobile version. However, in order to give visitors a simple way to browse your site from their smartphones, you might want to leave some features or content aside. That’s what the Wix Hidden Elements tool is about. In a click, you can hide entire parts of your site. Don’t worry, as every hidden component can resurface just as easily.
Don’t forget the Back to Top Button
If you have a long feed on your mobile site, it can sometimes be a chore for users to scroll back to the top of your page. Remember: your goal is to make your users’ experience as comfortable as possible. We would also like to help you with that, which is why we offer a simple solution: the Back to Top Button. This smart feature automatically sends your visitors to the start of your feed, with a simple touch of the screen. To turn it on, access your ‘Mobile Tools’ and look for the Back to Top Button.
Chat with visitors on the go
On your Wix desktop site, there is an option to install both ChatBot and Wix Chat – which can be used simultaneously or separately. Both show up as an icon that visitors can click to receive immediate assistance. ChatBot is pre-programmed by you to automatically answer customers’ questions, while Wix Chat allows you to answer questions manually – from your computer or smartphone. Good news! Both apps will automatically show up on the mobile version of your site, for a perfect customer experience.
By Jennifer Kaplan