Mobile-First Indexing: Ensuring Your Website is Optimized for Mobile

The rise in mobile web browsing has led Google to prioritize mobile sites in their indexing and ranking, emphasizing the importance of mobile optimization.
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    SEO.com Team Industry-Leading Experts
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  • June 26, 2024
  • 5 min. read

Today, more than half of all Internet searches worldwide originate from a mobile device. When people can access information from any device, anywhere they are, brands have to anticipate their website’s appearance on a range of devices, each with different sizes and capabilities.

Furthermore, since 2016, Google has prioritized mobile-first indexing, meaning how your site operates on a mobile device is even more important for your ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). Learn more about mobile-first indexing now and how to optimize your site for mobile SEO!

What is mobile-first indexing?

Believe it or not, Google doesn’t automatically know about every website on the Internet. Before a website can join the billions of sites in Google’s index, the company has to crawl it, which they do through something called a web crawler. Once they index the information on the website, they can start offering it on their SERPs based on how well the info gathered fits with a user’s query.

In the early days of indexing, one of the main aspects Google looked at to consider a site’s authority, usability, and relevance was desktop optimization. In other words, what did the website look like on a computer? Was the layout effective for disseminating information? If so, the website would have a better chance of ranking higher.

This changed in 2016, when Google switched its model to mobile-first indexing. 

Mobile-first indexing means that crawlers look for mobile optimization when they index new sites. So, if a website does not have a mobile counterpart, or the mobile version is counterintuitive, its chances of ranking well in search results decreases.

Do you need a mobile website to rank?

While you don’t need a mobile website to be included in Google’s rankings, if you want to get anywhere near that coveted first page, you should consider mobile optimization. The thing about mobile-first indexing is that it affects your ranking on every device, not just the mobile ones. 

That means even if your audience is primarily desktop users, they may not see your website ahead of competitors because Google considers it to be less user-friendly. With that in mind, it’s time for you to schedule an audit and see how your site performs across various platforms and optimize it anywhere you can.

Mobile optimization methods

Google recommends developers create mobile-friendly websites using one of three methods:

  • Separate URLs: Using separate URLs for your mobile and desktop users allows you to redirect them to the most optimized website based on a user’s device of choice. Developers implementing this style should have a basic understanding of HTTP response headers to use it effectively.
  • Dynamic serving: Like using separate URLs, dynamic serving involves configuring HTTP headers. All users are directed using the same link, and the server detects which site version is best for the user’s device.
  • Responsive design: While all three of these methods can help you rank better, Google recommends using responsive design wherever possible. Users across devices access the same URL and server. Then, the site adapts to any display based on screen size and orientation, ensuring that every visitor has an experience optimized for their device’s precise specifications.

Boosting your rankings in a mobile-first environment

Mobile optimization is a constantly evolving practice, especially as more and more people use mobile devices. As you implement new site settings and make your information more accessible, these tips will help get on Google’s good side — and your visitors, too!

  • Make sure your site is crawlable: Certain settings can prevent Google from crawling your website and including it in their search results. To avoid this, make sure resources like JavaScript and CSS are enabled and use structured data markup to help the crawlers understand your content.
  • Simplify site navigation: Mobile websites should have an easy-to-use navigation panel that follows the user throughout the website. In online searches, every second counts, and when visitors can navigate to any page on your site the second they want to, you can keep them engaged longer and get closer to converting them as leads.
  • Improve loading speeds: Many mobile sites and interactive images are configured to only load when the user navigates there. This is called “lazy loading” and can help your site load more quickly for people looking for a quick answer.
  • Optimize visual SEO: A photo that looks excellent on a desktop could be too big or reduce loading speeds on a mobile device. Every time you upload a photo, test out how it looks on a variety of devices before making it live. While you’re editing these features, consider optimizing your alt text, title tags, and meta descriptions to include more SEO keywords and increase your chances of ranking!

Get professional help creating a mobile-friendly site

With more than 1600 sites launched, WebFX (the team behind SEO.com) is a trusted partner for businesses looking to build a mobile-friendly website with our SEO web design services. Contact us today to receive a custom quote for your business!

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