Mobile First Hits Local Business Websites
Since 2016, small business owners have been keeping tabs on Google’s new mobile-first index. This new phenomenon, announced by Gary Illyes, places higher ranking emphasis on websites that are optimized for use on mobile devices. The more suitable your website is for mobile use, the higher your website will rank.
Now, here we are in 2018 and after hitting many major sites, the mobile-first index is now working for small local business websites. Google has been rolling this out slowly in small batches already, but recently one of the largest batches of websites yet has been released. While Google claims the wait has been due to the need to not trigger extreme changes in search results, this raises questions about the needs of key business players. Since Google cares about rankings of large online players such as Amazon or Facebook, it seems reasonable that they would not want the mobile-first ranking to affect the rankings of these large sites if they weren’t optimized for mobile as much as other sites. For the sake of their business relationships and their determination to keep search results from changing drastically, it has been a slow roll out for the mobile-first index.
For you as a small business owner, it may be time to think about optimizing your site for mobile use if you haven’t already. The bad part about the mobile-first index is that this ranking is applied whether the user is using a mobile device or not, meaning that your website will have a lower ranking based on mobile suitability even for someone searching on a desktop computer. Because of this distinction, you will want to optimize your website for mobile use even if many of your customers won’t be accessing your website from a mobile device. To Google, a mobile-friendly website is one that offers the same content on both mobile and desktop users. This doesn’t always mean the site has the same layout – just the same content is needed.
Many people have already begun preparations since the announcement came in 2016, but if you haven’t, consider getting a mobile site up and running soon as your search rankings may drop significantly if you don’t. If you aren’t sure about how mobile-friendly your site is, a good first step is to use Google’s mobile-friendly test online. It is a good sign if your website passes this test, but this doesn’t mean your site is as mobile-friendly as it could be. Consider the features below to make sure your website is great for use on desktop and mobile:
- User Experience: Your website will be different on a mobile device versus a desktop, and you not only need to consider dimension and orientation, but also the way the users navigate the site. Google won’t actually go on your website and rate the experience, but they will track the time spent on pages when viewed on a mobile device and compare it to the desktop version.
- Font: It is not only important for text to be placed correctly on a mobile site, but the font also makes a huge difference to readability. Trying using a minimum of size 14 font across your website.
- Spacing: A smaller screen means less space for content and text. That paragraph nicely centered on your desktop website may actually be tough to read on a mobile device. Try adding line breaks more often, making your content short and to the point, and try to imagine if you were reading that content on a mobile device.
- Keep the same content: Google will check that your website has the same content and links on the mobile and desktop sites. This can be tough to manage as your site may have had to be reduced to make it responsive, but it is not impossible!
- Continue testing! Digital services need to be continually tested for responsiveness and quality. As you add and change content on your site, you will need to change the way your content is shown on mobile devices, and this means you will need to test these changes. To keep those search rankings high, make sure to always test your changes.
Once your mobile website gets going, watch your rankings stay stable and maybe even rise. Learn more about our website design service.