A Beginner’s Guide to the Mobile-First Update 

Big changes are coming to search results. For the past six months or so, the world of internet marketing has been preparing for Google’s Mobile-First Index.

No matter what your site sells, your business could be affected the mobile-first update. Without the right prep, you could see a sudden drop in traffic.

Here’s a quick, jargon-free guide to the mobile-first update and how it can affect you:

What is the Mobile-First Index?

Your rank in the search results is determined by how relevant and useful Google considers your site to be in response to a search query.

In order to rank a site, first Google reads the site for a variety of factors big and small. Currently, Google looks at the desktop version of your site. The ranking for your mobile site is based on the ranking of your desktop site. So, the ranking is determined desktop-first.

See where this is going? After the mobile-first update, Google will use the mobile version of a site to determine the ranking of both your mobile and desktop site.

When Will the Mobile-First Update Happen?

Google officially announced the Mobile-First update on November 4, 2016. But there’s never been an official release date.

There’s certainly no shortage of blogs and opinion pieces attempting to predict the release date. But the exact day isn’t actually terribly important. Most likely, the release date will occur in the second half of 2017.

You still have to time to prepare your site for the update. You just don’t have much time. Reach out to a trusted SEO expert for a consultation as soon as you can.

Why is Google Making this Switch?

Basically, majority rules. About two years ago Google revealed that more searches happen on mobile than desktop. Google wants to ensure the mobile experience works great for users.

Desktop-first rankings tend to weaken mobile sites. After all, if site development resources are limited, they should be spent on the version of the site which affects the ranking.

Unfortunately, the majority of searchers are on mobile. So a lot of searchers were seeing the thinned down, poorly developed mobile versions of sites. The mobile-first update tells sites to get their mobile sites into gear.

Google’s main goals seems to be increased quality in mobile sites. This certainly seems in line with their recent behavior, including an update in January which targeted interstitial ads.

How Will Your Site Be Affected?

If you already spent a ton of time optimizing your mobile, then you might be in pretty good shape. But don’t worry if you’ve neglected your mobile site. You’ll probably need the help of an SEO expert, but your site can still be fixed and ready to go before the update arrives.

Here are some areas on your site which need to be checked:

Content

Desktop users and mobile users should have the same experience. Many times, content will be cut for the mobile site in order to save space. Ideally, you don’t want to do this. The mobile site should include all of the content found on the desktop site. “Read More” buttons and other techniques are often helpful here.

Don’t forget about the H1 headings and titles on your mobile site. This helps Google identify your content and rank your pages.

Page Speed

Google already considers page speed when ranking a site. This will continue to be important on mobile pages.

As a general rule, you want your site to load in about three seconds on mobile. You can test your site’s speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool.

Internal Links

Internal links might cause a problem if your mobile site has a separate URL than your desktop. Basically, if your internal linking structure on mobile doesn’t closely match the internal links on your desktop sites, you’ll run into problems.

First, users won’t be able to find content on mobile which they can easily reach on desktop. Additionally, an internal link mismatch can lead to a poor distribution of internal link equity. That can cause a drop in rankings.

Schema Markup

Schema code often must be moved over to the mobile site from the desktop version. With the update, Google is going to read the structured data. You can use Google’s testing tool to compare data across your mobile and desktop sites.

How Do I Prepare for Mobile First?

If you’re familiar with SEO and internet marketing, you can use some of the tools mentioned above to analyze your site’s mobile and desktop versions.

But in order to really make sure you’re ready for the Mobile-First update, you’ll want to reach out to an SEO expert. Your site might need a ton of work or just a few simple alternations. The sooner you know what needs to be done, the better.

The Google Mobile-First update will be here soon. Post your questions below or contact me to set up a personal consultation.  

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