Over the last couple of decades, nearly every business out there has played tug-of-war with their website’s search engine optimization (SEO). With Google essentially having a monopoly over how billions of people access information in their queries, everyone in the industry tends to freak out (and rightfully so!) when updates are made to their algorithm.
The latest change to be rolled out is a “mobile-first” initiative, which it’s safe to say has clearly been in the works for a while. Taking effect in March of 2021, we’re here to fill you in on what the change entails and why it’s crucial to your business.
According to the experts at Semrush, all websites launched after July of 2019 have been ranked according to their mobile version. Nearly two years later, what this update now does is move overall sites before then to be ranked according to their mobile score as well.
Whether Google penalizes sites not adhering to new standards or rewards sites that do follow best practices is a rather minute argument since both would provide the same current outcome. Websites now need to be more than just mobile-friendly – the mobile version of the site is even more important than the desktop version.
Since Google has begun prioritizing sites in their index that are clearly designed for mobile users, the most important takeaway lies in the fact there is no way to avoid this new barometer. As a rule of thumb, it is wise for the mobile version of your site to be the same experience as the desktop version.
Frequently referred to in the industry as a responsive site, this is when the full version of a website accurately adapts to any screen size. To achieve this, you are likely relying on the expertise of a web developer who is ensuring all of those style changes in the CSS are adjusting accordingly.
The pure user experience (UX) side of things is know how people engage with your website and conduct transactions on each type of device and then understanding what is relevant on that device. Traditionally, desktop versions of sites have always been more in-depth, pushing for more content and functionality. Oppositely, mobile usually has been lighter, serving as a somewhat abbreviated version of the site pared down to only what is deemed most important.
Understanding how human behavior has changed over time and how people engage with a brand is critical to brand engagement and customer experience. After viewing a convincing ad on TV, users would previously go look up the brand’s full site on a computer rather than pull it up on the spot via a smartphone. Today people have their smartphones beside them when consuming TV and streaming media.
This shift tells us that mobile is no longer a choice; it is a screen people use in primary situations. In countries and communities where laptops and other PCs are cost-prohibitive, a phone is often those users’ only device for both personal and business use – everything, really.
Globally, many stats show mobile is now over 50% of how all websites are accessed, while in the U.S. mobile remains right on the cusp at around 49%.
As mentioned, being mobile-friendly is not good enough anymore. It’s worth repeating that your site must be mobile-first to rank well.
If you have a site that is still grand and lavish in appearance on a desktop but is suffering on the mobile side, chances are the pages are being bogged down by heavy videos and overly large imagery. This, in turn, affects side load and performance. Today, more so than before, page speed is a critical metric for how Google rates the value of a mobile site.
Many of these technical fixes are relatively easy for a good agency to fix but can come at the expense of UX if not done correctly. There must be a proper balance between UX, brand, content, and performance to ensure a superior mobile-first experience.
Remember that some of the newest and most innovative brands like Carvana have made the mobile experience of shopping for a car on the phone seamless. If even purchasing a car can be made simple via the mobile version of a website, then with a bit of work and a lot of expertise, your business’s website can thrive too.