One of the major SEO trends for 2020 that website owners need to be aware of is mobile-first indexing – the prioritising of the mobile version of web pages by search engines.
Since 2019, Google has indexed all newly-created websites for mobile by default, analysing how well they perform on mobile devices rather than desktops. Older websites are evaluated for mobile readiness on a case by case basis and indexed once they’re found to be up to scratch.
What is mobile first?
Google has been rewarding mobile-friendly websites with higher search rankings since at least 2015, while also punishing sites that are hard to navigate, slow to load, or have other user experience issues on mobile devices.
Google is prioritising the mobile web because that’s how most people use its search engine today. Almost 60% of US searches now originate on mobiles, according to Statista, and this is trending upwards every year all across the world.
The rise of voice search and local SEO will make searching on mobiles even more popular in the years ahead, so it’s essential that your website displays clearly and is easy to use on the smallest touchscreens.
Is your site optimised?
If you’ve ever opened a website on your phone and been presented with an oversized, fiddly desktop version of a site, you’ll understand why it’s so important to design your pages for smartphones. If your website isn’t optimised for a phone screen, mobile users aren’t going to stick around.
With Google’s search algorithm also penalising pages that offer a bad user experience, people are less likely to even find your site in the first place if it’s not optimised for mobiles. Google’s RankBrain takes note of how quickly users click away from pages and punishes sites that have low engagement and a high bounce rate.
If you don’t know whether your site is already optimised for mobile, you can check it using Google’s handy Mobile-Friendly Test or through the Mobile Usability option in the Google Search Console. If it’s not optimised, you need to fix that as a priority or you could lose more than half of your potential customers.
How to optimise for mobile
To make sure your site is optimised to capture mobile searches and give the best user experience, it should do all of the following:
- Use a responsive theme – a responsive design theme automatically displays either the mobile or desktop version of the page, according to how your site is being accessed. If you don’t have a responsive design, you’ll need to build separate mobile and desktop sites.
- Consistent design and content – your mobile and desktop sites should be as similar as possible for a consistent user experience across platforms. With mobile first, this is more likely to involve bringing your desktop site in line with your mobile site.
- Streamline menus for mobile – large menus look cluttered on mobiles. Economise top-level menus to include only the most relevant categories.
- Don’t hide content – collapsible tabs and drop-down menus may not be picked up by search engines on mobile.
- Use CTA buttons – calls to action should be designed for ease of tapping rather than clicking. Use big, clear buttons rather than text links.
- Optimise for voice search – voice search is growing every year. Rethink your keyword strategies for natural speech patterns to capture more voice search queries.
Read more tips for designing your mobile website.