At this point in the Internet’s evolution this blog should be excruciatingly redundant. In fact, the term mobile responsive or mobile optimized should be so well known that I’m not going to go into it. If you want a definition of that, we’ve got an old blog that can help. (Read Here) So why is this the “last call” for getting your website updated to one that is functional on mobile? The answer is pretty simple, rankings.
Just over a year ago Google talked about mobile-first search indexing. Since then they’ve rolled it out in phases on a few websites. This summer we were told by Google and other resources that luckily it wouldn’t be rolling out completely until 2018 at the earliest. Well, it’s 2018 everyone. So, last call.
What is Mobile First Indexing?
Today about 60% of searches occur on a mobile device. Think about it, chances are pretty good you spend more of your day in front of your phone than you do in front of your desktop/laptop, right? Well search engines still crawl the desktop version of a website first for content to deliver. As Google put it:
“… our ranking systems still typically look at the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate its relevance to the user. This can cause issues when the mobile page has less content than the desktop page because our algorithms are not evaluating the actual page that is seen by a mobile searcher.”
To rectify this, in the next 12 or so months Google is going to flip the table and use content deliver its search results based on what is most accurate for mobile users first. This has dramatic implications across the Internet, and most importantly for the businesses that rely on it for sales.
How Does This Affect Your Business?
If there was a day when you said, “Pfft, we don’t need to worry about it, most of our customers use their desktop to find us, we have the results in Google Analytics to prove it.” Well, that may be the case, but it doesn’t mean Google will return your website in a search after they make the shift.
So if you’re an e-commerce store that focuses on, say, machine parts; it’s true, a huge number of your visitors and buyers are finding you on desktop currently. But, that doesn’t mean that they’ll find you later this year or next. They may be finding your competitor who decided to update their website.
Am I giving a doomsday scenario? Well sure, but if you’ve gotten to 2018 and haven’t updated your site in 10 years or more, it’s probably the only way to get you to think about it seriously.
What About Mobile Websites?
If you decided to go the route of a mobile website over a responsive website, there’s a few things Google says you need to ensure you’re doing to make sure that you’re all set for a transition. Here’s a list of things that they state you should do:
• Make sure the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos – in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.
• Structured data is important for indexing and search features that users love: it should be both on the mobile and desktop version of the site. Ensure URLs within the structured data are updated to the mobile version on the mobile pages.
• Metadata should be present on both versions of the site. It provides hints about the content on a page for indexing and serving. For example, make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of all pages on the site.
• No changes are necessary for interlinking with separate mobile URLs (m.-dot sites). For sites using separate mobile URLs, keep the existing link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between these versions.
• Check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs. When using link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization, link between mobile and desktop URLs separately. Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there.
• Ensure the servers hosting the site have enough capacity to handle potentially increased crawl rate. This doesn’t affect sites that use responsive web design and dynamic serving, only sites where the mobile version is on a separate host, such as m.example.com.
Now, we generally build our websites as responsive websites to not have to deal with a lot of this. It also helps ensure that all your content is on your website and not just a limited amount like many mobile websites do.
To make sure that your mobile website is set up for success, ask your developer to audit your website based on Google’s recommendations.
How About Responsive Websites?
Luckily this is an easy answer, sort of. If your website is a responsive website, chances are pretty good that you don’t have to change anything. However, responsive doesn’t always mean fully mobile optimized. While search engines will say your website is searchable by mobile devices, it doesn’t automatically mean it will rank better.
Remember, site speed is a search signal for Google. As it becomes mobile first in how it displays search results, it’s my opinion that site speed will have ever increasing importance.
Because we expect the same performance on our phones as we do on our laptops. When we’re looking for a recipe in the grocery store we expect it to pop up so we know what to buy. If your webpage isn’t optimized, and it takes a lot of data to download, chances are good users are going to back out before they get what they need.
Optimizing your website for mobile first helps your users get the information they want on bandwidth that is sometime 1/10th of what we get at home on WiFi.
There are a lot of tests out there to see how your page speed is on mobile. If you run one with less than stellar results, ask your developers to look into optimizations they can do to help you run faster.
“You Don’t Have To Go Home – But You Can’t Stay Here” – Semisonic
By not updating your website, are you going to get blown off the Internet for good? No. Your current customers will still be able to reach your website and order from their desktop. But, what about the new customers? What about new purchasing managers who prefer to use newer technology? Are you catering to them?
The workforce is changing, ordering, finding new suppliers, etc. it’s all changing. While staying where you are won’t necessarily mean the end of your website, and that you need to abandon your web presence, it just means you may not have the growth you once did. I quoted the song “Closing Time” in this segment. One of the lines goes, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” This couldn’t be more true when it comes to Google’s algorithm change this year.
What worked for businesses online for the last decade is probably coming to a close, but that is just an opportunity to start a new way of building your online presence. So, last call! Get ahead of Google on this while you still can.