interactivated blog

magento & ecommerce

Building a site around Google’s mobile-first index

Since it was first announced, the Mobile-First index has been received with mixed feelings by the developer community. The recent acknowledgement from Google that the feature has been implemented once again stirred up some controversy and debate over how quickly should websites be optimized to not lose rankings.

The situation is not as dire as some may think. In fact, chances are that most mobile websites won’t be affected by the mobile-first index. Here are some things you should know as a Magento developer about the interaction with Google’s new indexing trend. This article will help guide you towards making any necessary adjustments without losing the site’s identity and ranking.

Be sure you want to be mobile ready

If there’s one thing that’s not up for debate with Google’s mobile-first index is that doing a poor job on your mobile site might very well ruin your ranking. In fact, the company said that the simplest solution could be the best for some developers. That means that it would be better for your business to not have a mobile site at all than to have one that’s not optimized.

Sure it may sound like overkill but not everyone can handle reworks. Tweaking a site that you felt was perfect just to optimize it for a new search index may seem like too much of a hassle. If you do decide to do it, you have to make sure it’s done right and not rushed.

Chances are that you’ll still be getting plenty of visitors on a desktop optimized website. The mobile-first index doesn’t favor mobile websites so you don’t have to worry about losing business. It only tries to better gauge a site’s value and assign merit-based rankings.

Keeping track of content

Often times websites have two versions, one for desktop and one for mobile users. While that may not be ideal in most cases, it doesn’t mean it can’t work. It just means there’s almost double the maintenance work that needs to be put in by the development team.

If you’re running a dual website operation then you need to be paying extra attention to your content. Leaving out too much information from the desktop site to accommodate your mobile version can end up hurting your rankings. Because of the mobile-first indexing a lot of content won’t be taken into account if it’s not found on the mobile version.

To make sure this doesn’t happen you might need to reevaluate both sites in comparison. The Google Search Console can be your most important tool in these types of scenarios.

Responsiveness is not overrated

You may think that the mobile performance won’t hurt your site too much. After all, if you have a loyal customer base or fan base they’re likely to look past slower loading times. While that may be true, the mobile-first index will take the page responsiveness into account when assigning rankings.

Now, not only do you have to be up to date with your content, you have to worry about the coding more than ever before. Luckily, as a Magento web developer you have some tools that can help you speed up a mobile site.

You can make use of Accelerated Mobile Pages. This project is backed by Google and its sole focus is to bring more websites up to speed.

There are even more things you can do to make sure the mobile-first index will favor your site. You can use lighter fonts like open web fonts and rearrange the loading priority of the content. What the latter does is let you not only display the most important information first but it also gives the impression that your website is actually loading faster than it actually is.

Mobile is already the new trend

It’s important to realize that the mobile-first index isn’t changing the importance of mobile ready websites. In fact, this concept was introduced because of how popular mobile sites were already becoming. Up to 55% of internet traffic doesn’t come from desktop devices anymore, which is why the new index was introduced.

If you’re a Magento developer but don’t have much experience with optimizing mobile-friendly sites you’re not in as much trouble as you may think. Although all of this talk of customization and index-pleasing designs can be scary, there are plenty of mobile-responsive Magento themes ready to be used.

Conclusion

More are sure to come now that Google has officially recognized that it implemented the mobile-first index. Using what’s already available can be a good starting point when you’re building up a new website. But what can you do if you have to tweak your old one, without losing your site’s identity?

It’s quite simple. Follow the our tips and start with reorganizing your content. Put more important text into your mobile site version than you previously had. Keep in mind that you might need to do that either way. As it so often happens, we can all get complacent with a site’s design and forget that adjustments are needed from time to time.

So, whether you’re trying to give your mobile site an edge in rankings, responsiveness, or just a fresh new look, there’s no better time to do so than the present. Every bit of text, interaction, and choice of color pattern can now determine how high up in rankings a mobile site will show. It may seem like hard work but unlike a few years ago the reward is actually worth the time.

For those that handle two separate website versions, the mobile-first index can also be a blessing in disguise. No longer will your too sites look too different and no longer will your mobile site bring in less customers. It shouldn’t have been the case before the new index anyway, but now you have one more reason to do your best and keep the brand identity clear across multiple platforms.

At the end of the day, the new index doesn’t demand anything outside the realm of common sense and good marketing. Besides, Google should notify you on whether or not your site meets the new ranking criteria or if you need to do adjustments. That being said, it’s always better to be prepared.

By interactivated • on March 15, 2018

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