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There's Still Time to Put Mobile First

Do you look at your website from a "mobile first" perspective? Mobile search and web traffic has overtaken desktop search and traffic, so it may be time to reconsider your approach. But don't worry-- there's still time to reap the benefits of a mobile friendly website. 

More than half of all searches are performed on mobile devices. As of Q3 2018, 52.4% of all global web traffic originates on a mobile device. For anyone who uses their smartphone daily, this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. What does come as a surprise, however, is the number of businesses that don’t approach their websites from a “mobile first” perspective. 

According to a comprehensive study from Clutch, 64% of small businesses have a website, and 81% of those websites are mobile friendly. But what about the 36% with no website, or even the 19% whose websites aren’t mobile friendly? 

Well, it’s better late than never. 

We’re never going to see desktop computers regain dominance over smartphones and other mobile devices when it comes to search and web browsing activity. Even if you don’t use your phone to surf the web (and, let’s be honest, you probably do), you’ll eventually have to put mobile users first. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on potential customers and the business they bring with them. Mobile friendly websites aren't just a design trend

But there is some good news-- it’s not too late to make your website mobile friendly, or build your first website with mobile devices in mind, even in the age of Google’s Mobile First Indexing. 

Mobile First Indexing 

Though its announcement came as early as 2016, Google rolled out its Mobile First Indexing in earnest this year. 

What’s Mobile First Indexing? We’ll let Google speak for themselves:

Mobile-first indexing means Google will predominantly use the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Historically, the index primarily used the desktop version of a page's content when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user's query. Since the majority of users now access Google via a mobile device, the index will primarily use the mobile version of a page's content going forward. We aren't creating a separate mobile-first index. We continue to use only one index.

With mobile-first indexing, Googlebot primarily crawls and indexes pages with the smartphone agent. We will continue to show the URL that is the most appropriate to users (whether it's a desktop or mobile URL) in Search results.

As we said, we transition sites slowly to ensure a good experience for site owners and users. We evaluate each site individually on its readiness for mobile-first indexing based on the best practices and transition the site when the site is ready.

If you’re worried about rankings, or search engine visibility, being included in the Mobile First Index (which is inevitable) is not a ranking factor. Though Google does crawl the mobile version of your content to rank your website. Mobile friendliness is also a ranking factor for any given website. 

In Google’s quest to deliver the best, most relevant search results for its user, it’s considering mobile users first. That’s just because most of its traffic comes from mobile devices. Mobile friendliness plays into your website’s search rankings on mobile queries, and your audience is increasingly shifting toward mobile-- so why would you want to leave anything to chance?

A clunky website that only displays well on desktop computers won’t help you in the long run. But, as Google is rolling this index out slowly, you still have time to adapt. 

If you have more questions about Mobile First Indexing, Search Engine Land has a great FAQ

In the meantime, though, you need to decide how to approach your website, or even just determine if it’s mobile friendly in the first place. 

The Difference Between a Mobile Site and a Responsive Site 

In its documentation for Mobile First Indexing, Google constantly mentions “the mobile version of a website.” If you haven’t been involved in your website’s development or don’t have a website, you may wonder what that means. 

A mobile website refers to a distinct website, usually using a separate subdomain URL, that displays when a user accesses your website from a mobile device. These websites are optimized to be fast for mobile users, and also to deliver content in a way that perfectly fits a smartphone's screen. 

Usually, a mobile website has a URL structure similar to ‘m.domain.com,’ whereas the desktop site uses ‘www.domain.com.’ You may have seen this with websites such as YouTube:

These URLs will ultimately take you to the same delightful cat video. And, what’s more, if you try to access the mobile URL from a desktop computer, it will automatically redirect you to a desktop version. 

By now, you may be worried that you don’t have a separate mobile website with a ‘m.domain.com’ address. But mobile site aren’t the only way to serve mobile users. 

If you have a Neoreef website, for example, your website serves mobile users (and users of all device types!) perfectly because we use responsive design. Many web design and development agencies use responsive design, as it’s a practical way to build a website-- it serves all users without the need to create a separate mobile website. 

Here’s a plain-English definition of responsive web design, courtesy of Wikipedia. It doesn’t get any clearer than this:

Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design that makes web pages render well on a variety of devices and window or screen sizes… Content, design and performance are necessary across all devices to ensure usability and satisfaction. 

A site designed with RWD adapts the layout to the viewing environment by using fluid, proportion-based grids,flexible images, and CSS3 media queries…

Basically, responsive websites squeeze and stretch themselves to look pleasing across any device. If you have a responsively designed website, you have a mobile friendly website (at least on the surface). 

If you have neither a mobile website nor a responsive website, we urge you to look into responsive design. Websites that feature RWD are great for users, are practical for business owners, and tend to save money and present fewer complications in the long run. 

Tools to Check Your Mobile Friendliness 

You may now be wondering just how much work your website needs in order to be mobile friendly. Do you need to build a mobile website, do you need to implement a responsive redesign, or can you just change WordPress themes?

There’s no easy answer to that question, of course. But we can provide you with some tools. These tools give you real insight on how Google itself views the mobile friendliness, or lack thereof, of your website. 

They can help guide you toward tackling the most vital and necessary improvements first, and give you some time to plan your next steps. 

Check your website’s mobile friendliness with these tools:

  • Google’s Mobile Friendliness Test - “Test how easily a visitor can use your page on a mobile device. Just enter a page URL to see how your page scores.”
  • Google’s Mobile Speed Test - This tool shows how quickly your website loads on a typical mobile device-- even one using a 3G connection. As Google says, “Most sites lose half their visitors while loading.”
  • mobiReady’s Mobile Site Test - “A free tool for developers, designers and marketers to test website performance on mobile devices.”

Google’s mobile friendliness test and mobiReady’s site test will both give you actionable advice on how to make your website better for mobile users. You should implement those steps if you can. Site speed is also important, both because of how it serves users, and because it’s a Google ranking factor. Google’s speed test will also give you some important data about your site’s speed and how you can improve it. 

Improving those action items may be enough to provide a mobile friendly experience-- for now. In the long term, though, you’ll want a lasting solution to ensure your website’s mobile friendliness, such as a mobile site or a website that uses responsive web design. 

Key Takeaways 

If you should take anything away from this blog post, it’s that mobile users are the future of your website. And every website, really. 

If you don’t have a website, now is the time to invest in a website that implements RWD, or build a website with both mobile and desktop versions. 

If you already have a website and it offers a poor mobile experience, you’ve learned how to diagnose the problems and act on those issues. But you’ll also want to invest in a long term solution, such as the previously mentioned responsively designed website. 

Most importantly, though, know that there’s no need to panic. While mobile traffic is taking over the web, you still have time to capitalize on that mobile traffic. It’s not too late to put mobile first. 

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