Guest post by Nick Rojas.
Two months ago, Webbiquity posted an article regarding mobile-first indexing. Since then, Google has officially started their mobile-first changeover, though it is still in the trial phase and only a select few websites are the testing grounds. Because the advertising and SEO worlds are profoundly affected whenever Google makes a change, it’s worthwhile to understand the best practices of mobile websites and move towards maintaining a mobile presence.
Mobile Friendly Practices
To best prepare for the new indexing scheme, all businesses should have a mobile version of their websites. The hallmarks of a good mobile site include fast loading times, efficient layouts for small screens, and low energy consumption. Google published a short guide for mobile-first indexing for the more technically-inclined, too.
Fast loading times help in two ways: first, they require less computing power, and second, they require less data. Plenty of mobile users are restricted by data caps. When they are forced to download large amounts of data simply to view a website, it causes frustration and an aversion to the data-guzzling mobile site. Slow loading times are also frustrating, and limited resources on mobile means developers are even more restricted by computation limits.
Regarding layout, mobile users do not want to constantly zoom in and out. Desktop-only sites force this annoyance upon users, and as Google starts to prioritize mobile over desktop content, desktop-only websites will be at a disadvantage. Also, because more and more traffic is driven by mobile, it makes business sense to cater to these customers.
Due to the heavy reliance of mobile devices on battery power, sites should not request significant resource usage on customers’ devices. When people talk about “responsive websites,” they mean those that are light on resources and have no lag in navigation. This might mean a reduction in some of the more content-rich websites, but this is mobile-first, not mobile-only. Desktop sites will still be included in crawling and indexing, but their importance becomes secondary to mobile.
Remaining Desktop Only
If a website remains desktop-only, the mobile-first indexing change has little impact. The only problem for these sites is that competitors with both mobile and desktop sites may have an advantage. In aggregate, the competitor’s mobile site will boost their visibility, perhaps to both desktop and mobile users. For that reason, it is suggested that all businesses have at least some mobile presence.
There are plenty of analytics to be gathered and processed from websites alone. Businesses need to be aware of these website-based data points. However, because browsers are general-purpose applications, the most efficient way to gather data on customers is via analytics in apps.
Businesses that maintain apps can collect deeper information about customer habits. One excellent way this can help in the mobile-first indexing world is by creating a mobile site based on app usage patterns. Apps are native to mobile platforms, so building a mobile-friendly website might be easier based on app usage than desktop usage. Analyzing app trends can also pare down the inefficient components of the desktop site to only those components engaged by app users, making the mobile site even friendlier for mobile devices.
Remember, this is not mobile-only indexing, but it is useful to maintain at least a presence in the mobile space. Not only will it help increase page rankings and visibility, it simply makes business sense as more and more consumers turn to mobile devices as a complement or even replacement to traditional desktop devices.
Nick Rojas combines 20 years of experience working with and consulting for small to medium business and a passion for journalism to help readers grow. He writes about technology, marketing, and social media for the aspiring entrepreneur. When Nick is not sharing his expertise, he can be found spending time at the beach with his dog Presto. Follow him on Twitter @NickARojas.