Given mobile internet use is increasing exponentially, it comes as no surprise that the search engines are taking mobile very seriously. In November 2016 Google announced the intention to move to a Mobile first index and then earlier this month they announced that the page speed for mobile was a major factor.
In this blog, we will cover the mobile first index and just what that means and then secondly mobile page speed and how that affects your website for both Google and more importantly the user and your business.
What does a mobile first index mean?
Put simply, Google will assess your mobile website and use that as the primary factor in determining your organic rankings on the index. Since there is just one index, this means how your desktop listing performs is affected by your mobile site.
But what if I don’t have a mobile website I hear you cry? Well Google say that’s fine as they will just assess the mobile potential of the desktop version of your site. That may not be good news! How does your desktop site really perform on mobile?
The biggest area where many will face complications is they have less content available to the user on mobile or the mobile site delivers a poor user experience. For example, we have seen companies try to serve just a single mobile optimised page to mobile users, or no matter what page you try to access the site via, as soon as it detects that you are on a mobile site you get redirected to the home page and you can no longer find the content you were originally after.
The next logical question is “Does this mean I will get a ranking boost? Well it’s more a case of if you don’t have a great mobile site which loads quickly you could find yourself lower in the rankings than those who do.
There needs to be a shift in mindset from the desktop site to the everything site: Design for mobile first, optimise your mobile content as you would your desktop site, ensure your content is accessible across everything, the user experience should be seamless no matter the device.
When will it happen?
Well the truth is the mobile first index is in play now. It came online quietly for a few sites at the beginning of 2018 and the tech giant confirmed it’s being extended to include more sites over the next couple of weeks. You’ve been warned, it’s time to get your ‘mobile house’ in order… but how?
Mobile page speed – the what and the why
Critical to any good online experience is speed, we want everything to work quickly, efficiently and effectively. Google knows this and for many years page speed has been important to them, the first push on this was the Caffeine Update was announced in August 2009. Fast forward to February 2018 and we have Google announcing the “Speed Update”
So bring together a focus on mobile combined with a need for speed… and in July this year the load speed of your mobile site will impact directly on how your desk top site is ranked. Whilst they are looking to target the worst offenders only, the best strategy will be proactivity rather than being reactive after the damage has been done.
What can you do and what should you try and achieve?
Google reports that 53% off visitors will leave if your site doesn’t load inside of 3 Seconds! That is potentially huge for every 1000 visitors you generate you will lose 530 of them… Below is our tips for a fast-mobile site.
1: Avoid large files
Your mobile pages should make as few requests as possible. This applies to both images and files and any scripts that need to run. Essentially keep your files small and the number of requests to a minimum fewer than 50 if possible.
2: Load visible content first
When the site is visible “above the fold” (before scroll down), the user perceives that it’s loaded and will reduce the risk of lost traffic.
3: Compress and cache everything
You can store frequently accessed data in a temporary storage called a cache this will mean that users will already have key parts of the page stored and the they need to be reloaded every time.
If you can keep the overall page size under 500KB if possible MB is only ok for desktop.
4: Avoid slideshows and sliders
If you employ slide shows on your desk top (a questionable strategy IMO) for your mobile page pick one image to show, this will improve your page load time and get the visible content in place quicker
5: Minimise redirects
Each redirect requires another request, delaying the visible content if you have mobile specific urls then you should specify these in your AdWords Ads or anywhere that you are targeting mobile only users.
6: Test your site
You can do a quick test for free with the Google Page Speed Tool, in essence the lower your score the better but it will test your pages against both a fast broadband connection and also 3G data connection. You want to be aiming for under a 3 second load time.
Yes, I know a shameless call to action, but we can do a full audit of your mobile site and your desktop site if required, we can identify where you are slowing down and what design elements are stopping your users from using your site and ultimately converting. You only have until July 2018 before this comes into full effect and the mobile first index is already in play now.