Over the next few months, Google will slowly roll out the mobile-first index, which puts mobile websites at a priority over desktop. This switch, according to Google, shouldn’t have a major effect on current search engine rankings, but that can’t be known for sure.
To prepare your existing website, or if you’re in the middle of creating a mobile site, remember to think of mobile users first, then find the best ways to design your site for speed.
Think Mobile First
A desktop website and a mobile website used to be two separate entities. The former would grab customers’ attention and drive them to a sale while the latter was used primarily to get someone back to desktop. That’s changed now. Mobile websites need to be the first (and sometimes final) option for consumers, as they search more often on their phone than ever before.
In order to effectively attract new customers while retaining those you already have, you need to start thinking about your mobile website first. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to consider your best design option and how you’ll be found in search. To do that, you’ll need a responsive design and content that works well.
Choose a Responsive Design
There are a couple of options available for mobile website design, including dynamic serving and mobile domains, but the best option currently available—particularly if you’re on a strict budget—is a responsive design. Responsive designs give you the ability to design for desktop and mobile at the same time.
A responsive design also eliminates the chances of something simple from hurting your website as you go from desktop to mobile. Responsive designs work well on mobile because they were created to work on mobile.
When designed well, a responsive website will have easy to click buttons, easy to read text, and will offer the same experience you find on desktop. The latter of which is important for consumers who may not respond well to find a completely new website on mobile as compared to desktop. By keeping everything in line across devices, you can more easily expect to retain visitors while attracting new ones as well.
Create Content for Mobile
A big question that has beleaguered many when it comes to mobile websites is, “How much content is too much?” This answer has varied wildly in the last few years, ranging from providing fewer than 150 words on a given page to providing as much as you would on desktop, which can be over 1000 words. Either choice can be a problem.
While you don’t want to provide too much content where someone will be scrolling endlessly on their phone, you don’t want to provide too little where search engines won’t be able to effectively place you in search engine rankings. You can get around this, though, with one of two choices:
- Place content under tabs. It’s fairly straightforward. You just hide content from consumer view. Once, you could lose SEO value by placing content behind tabs, but with the changing index, Google has rethought this option and said that “content hidden for UX should have full [SEO] weight.”
- Don’t write for desktop on mobile. This may sound obvious, but too often it’s forgotten. When you’re writing content for your current main website (desktop), you need to be thinking about it as though someone will read it on mobile. If you think this way, you’ll consider writing less content on main landing pages and try to direct to deeper pages or blogs to provide more than topical information.
Design for Speed
Mobile users expect websites and apps to work one way and one way only: fast. Waiting for a website to load is frustrating for anyone, but when your goal is to attain new customers, make a sale, or become a thought leader in your industry, speed matters.
As the Google index is about to switch, you may be looking over your site trying to find the spaces where you can make up for lost speed, and the two easiest parts of your website to manage are your images and your website’s code.
Depending on the website and your business, the amount of images you have will vary. But in any situation, images will slow a mobile website down. The best way to avoid this issue is to optimize all images for web. Doing so will help reduce file sizes and resolution down to a manageable size.
Websites that currently use WordPress as their CMS can benefit from the plugin WP Smush, which automatically reduces image file sizes as soon as you upload. In time, this will help to retain your current site speed, rather than diminish it over time.
For WordPress websites, such as Get.STORAGE, the best way to quickly minify code as it’s created is to install the Autoptimize plugin.