Today, most modern web users access websites via smartphones and tablets, so it is increasingly important for business owners to create mobile versions of their website that can be organically displayed on compact screens. Our growing love of gadgets influences not only how websites look, but also how they are crawled, indexed, and ranked by search engines.
Major search engines have tailored their algorithms to the mobile environment. For example, on March 26, 2018, Google officially announced its migration to mobile-first indexing (MFI). These changes forced business owners to revise their brands’ exposure on the web, and to seek new ways to remain at the top of search rankings.
Mobile searches are different from traditional ones. If you want to stay visible to a target audience that increasingly accesses the Internet via gadgets, you cannot rely on your PC-tailored website alone. It is critical to create smartphone-specific content and format it in a gadget-friendly way.
What Is Mobile-First Indexing?
MFI means that the leading search systems now develop their algorithms specifically for gadgets. There is no division between mobile and desktop indexes. Only one option is used for all devices.
Some time ago, desktop indexing was the norm, but it was replaced by a mobile analog system several years ago. All desktop websites are now indexed by mobile algorithms. If you study the crawlbot traffic to your online platform, you are likely to notice increased traffic from Smartphone Googlebot. Also, gadget-specific versions of pages will prevail in your cache.
Since July 1, 2019, the MFI algorithm has been applied by default to all new sites (those that were just created or that were unknown to Google until recently). Older resources are indexed according to traditional algorithms, and their owners get notifications via Search Console when displayed as ready. New sites do not need notifications, since MFI is the default state for them.
The Sad Fate of Companies That Ignore Google’s Update
Many online platforms that ignored Google’s warnings and failed to duly prepare for the transition to MFI noticed a significant decline in performance.
First of all, their keyword rankings suffered. Mobile impressions worsened. Non-optimized websites seemed to be invisible to search systems. Google was simply not showing them to their target audiences. With all these adverse trends, many companies reported a 65-75% decrease in mobile traffic.
Is this situation familiar to you? If you have been struggling to find the reason for a decrease in your site’s traffic, take Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check whether your problems stem from a lack of mobile optimization. If your site fails this test, your gadget-specific version needs to be updated.
Is it Possible to Work Around Google’s Rules
Some companies continue to think that a smartphone-tailored version is optional and unnecessary. This is a fatal mistake. Do not follow those entrepreneurs’ footsteps if you want to avoid problems. To maintain your high rankings or to attain higher rankings, then mobile optimization is imperative.
Of course, nobody will shut down your online platform. It will still be indexed by search engines, but you will get lower rankings. Meanwhile, your competitors who provide gadget-specific versions of their online platforms will outrun you, and you will have to scramble to regain your previous position.
Since the mobile searches are part of general searches and today’s crawlers are gadget-focused, the absence of a gadget-tailored version of your site can result in worsened PC results as well. There is no getting around Google’s recommendations, so you would be wise to make the necessary changes.
How Can You Avoid a Decrease in Traffic
Google sets clear and unambiguous rules that should be diligently observed if you want your website to be ranked high. Follow these instructions and avoid problems with MFI to pave your path to success.
If you already have a gadget-specific platform, make sure it is optimized, works at full capacity, and has high loading speeds. Keep in mind that, due to space limitations, content placed in tabs will be processed just like visible content.
This is a common gadget-focused practice. Also, pay attention to the following:
- Search Console by Google for monitoring the online platform’s performance. If you have already analyzed the performance of your desktop website, do the same for your gadget-specific version.
- Metadata to check for efficient keyword placement on your gadget-specific platform. Your mobile keywords should reflect the keywords used on your website’s desktop version. It is alright to use relative rather than twin options. If you want to make your mobile titles shorter than those on your desktop, no one will prevent you from doing so.
- Social metadata. Make sure links to your social media accounts are provided on your mobile platform.
- Server capacity. If a special host is used for your gadget-specific version, make sure your server is powerful enough to cope with a high crawl rate.
- Switchboard tags. If you were using these tags for desktop, nothing should change for your gadget-specific version.
- XML Sitemaps + Alternate/Canonical Tags. If your standard and gadget-specific websites are based on different URL structures, it is worth creating a special Sitemap for pages being viewed on gadgets. Tags “rel=’alternate’” + “rel=’canonical’” showing how gadget-specific content relates to your PC version.
- Hreflang. If implementing internationalization with rel=hreflang, mobile URL annotations should be linked to gadget-specific versions of the language and country. The same should be done for desktop attributes.
- App indexation. Check whether your gadget-tailored resource is verified in relation to association files.
- Content. All materials displayed in the gadget-tailored version (texts, images, videos, etc.) should be crawlable, indexable, and SEO-optimized. No valuable content originally created for your basic online platform should be lost.
Other Important Details to Keep in Mind
There are several more important details you should keep in mind, especially when building a new website.
UX in the Gadget-Specific Environment
It is obvious that website designs will vary for PC and smartphone screens due to their difference in sizes. A tiny screen only allows for a limited number of elements to be displayed. Google Webmasters note that “hamburger-menus” and “accordions” are great for the gadget-specific environment. They make it much easier for users to study a website. It also makes sense to hide some elements in tabs.
It can be challenging to read large pieces of text on a PC, and even more so on a cell phone. Therefore, it is not enough to simply convert your desktop version to a mobile one without making some changes. You should adapt your site to a small screen to spare your visitors from eye strain. Rework your articles and product descriptions. Use compact phrases and clear fonts with ample whitespaces.
Optimized Mobile Snippets
Use Google Analytics to check whether most of your traffic is supplied by mobile searches or desktop SERPs. In the first case, it is critical to optimize your mobile snippet. Use a special preview for this, as shown in the screenshot below.
Remember that gadget-specific versions now play a primary role in online transactions. A decade ago, very few companies paid much attention to them, thinking that pages appearing organically on cellular phones were an option rather than a must-have. But today, everything is quite different, since mobile devices now rule the world.
Making the necessary changes to make your site gadget-specific can pose a challenge if you are not SEO-savvy. If you want your online platform to remain at the top of search rankings, be visible to both PC and gadget lovers, and attract high traffic, turn to experienced specialists for help and advice. The Clever team is here to help you every step of the way. Contact us for a comprehensive consultation and find efficient solutions for promoting your business.