Semalt Tells What 8 SEO Mistakes You Should Avoid In The Age Of Mobile First

The Google Mobile First Index has been in effect since September 2018. Has your website's performance in Google Search deteriorated since then? This could be due to a lack of optimization for the mobile devices. Because how mobile-friendly your website is now decisive for its ranking on Google.

What does Mobile First mean?

The term Mobile First is a short form for the so-called "Mobile First Index", which was introduced by Google in September 2018. Since then, all the websites have been included and rated in the search index in your mobile version of Google first, which means that since then the mobile version of a website determined its ranking in the Google search engines.

What has changed with Mobile First?

First all, the crawling requests from Google to your website will be made by a mobile crawler in the future. This sees the website as a mobile user would see it.

The websites that are only optimized for the desktop devices and offer a page that is hardly usable on the mobile devices must expect to suffer a loss of ranking. Because the mobile friendliness is now an official ranking factor. All the websites are still indexed, even those that do not offer a mobile version at all.

If you offer the separated URLs for the mobile devices, Google will display the mobile URL to the mobile users and the desktop URL to the desktop users. However, only the content of the mobile URL is indexed. (A point that is not relevant for the users of responsive design with the identical URLs for the desktop and mobile devices.)

In the future, the Google ranking of your website will mainly be determined by its mobile appearance.

Why did you switch to Mobile First?

Google justifies the move to the Mobile First indexing with the fact that the majority of the users (> 60%) now access the websites via the mobile queries and the mobile usability has therefore become more important.

There has been a new way of thinking in the web design for a long time, which takes into account the development of the increasing use of the smart phones and leads to the website design that is increasingly geared towards the mobile devices. The responsive design approach now means that the websites are often first optimized in its mobile version and the result is then transferred to larger desktop screens.

Advantages of Mobile First

The main advantage is better website accessibility and optimized user guidance on the mobile devices right from the start. The focus on touch control is particularly important here. In the case of the websites that were initially optimized for the desktop use, the different usability by touch on the smartphone is often ignored. Another advantage is that, conversely, the desktop pages benefit from the reduction and the clear presentation of the essential content on a page: the purpose or topic of a page is communicated more clearly.

Possible disadvantages of Mobile First

One of the main concerns of the critics of the Mobile First approach is that this type of the website conception restricts the design too much and the user experience on the PC suffers due to more complicated usability. In addition, the desktop pages that have been optimized on the Mobile First basis would often appear too minimalistic.

Is my website already being indexed Mobile First?

To find out, all you have to do is to take a look in your Google Search Console. In this case, a message will be displayed at the bottom right telling you when your website has been switched to the Mobile First indexing.

Google Search Console notification about the switch to the Mobile First. You will receive this message when your website has been converted to the Mobile First.

In a tweet from February 26th, 2020 Kyle Sutton, Senior Product Manager and SEO at USA TODAY NETWORK, responded to an email from Google that made him aware of the problems with the mobile indexing of a page. In this mail, Google makes the following statement: "Google expects to apply indexing mobile-first to all the websites in the next six to twelve months". If you have not yet prepared for indexing mobile-first, now is the time. In the official webmaster blog, Google goes into details about the complete changeover of the Mobile-First Index by September 2020.

What is the impact on my website's indexing?

How the change will affect the indexing of your website in the Google search engines will primarily depend on how you have implemented a mobile version of your page.

If you have different URLs for the desktop and the mobile, the mobile URL will be preferred in the future.

As already mentioned, the new indexing method from Google means that the mobile appearance is decisive for the evaluation of the page and consequently it's ranking in the search engines. It is therefore more important to avoid serious mistakes in this area in the future and technically to adapt the SEO to the conditions in the mobile age.

Like that, the best way to optimize a website for the mobile usability and thus Mobile First is (also according to Google) to use a responsive design.

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These 8 SEO mistakes should be avoided in the age of Mobile First.

Mobile SEO is noticeably different from previous SEO. Make sure you aren't chasing old methods that don't do you much good in the age of Mobile First. For the users of the mobile devices, what counts above all is the fast loading times, good readability and a clear summary of all information on much smaller screens, including a meaningful link that leads the user quickly to his destination without having to rely too heavily on the page navigation.

1. Long loading times due to too many scripts and style sheets

If your website uses an elaborate design with many styles and scripts, this can affect the loading time and thus the mobile performance, which could ultimately also damage your ranking. The days of the objects flying in or other odds and ends in the sense of the unnecessary effects are long gone. Stay factual on your website, provide clear and structured information so that you can better satisfy the user's needs and at the same time save effort.

2. The use of many high-resolution images or videos

Pictures and especially videos require a lot of data volume to be loaded. This can seriously affect the loading time of a page. You should therefore only use images in the size you need or as preview images that are only fully loaded when you call it up.

More tips:

If possible, use the images in NextGen format, for example WebP (graphic format for the compressed images).

Make sure that the videos don't load until the users click the play button.

3. Use of the content elements that do not adjust to the screen size

Some programmed page templates for the content management systems are not fully responsive, which means that the images can also be displayed on the move in its original size and extend far beyond the edge of the screen. This can also happen with the other content elements such as buttons.

This is not always recognized in the automatic tests, and it also depends on the respective screen size. You should therefore manually check, if necessary randomly, the important pages on your website in the different screen resolutions to ensure that everything is displayed correctly on your move.

Avoid the content elements that do not adjust to the screen size.

4. Text formats that are too small and cannot be read on the mobile devices

Fonts are often automatically scaled down for the mobile devices so that more text fit on the small screens. But don't overdo it. Not all people can recognize the text in font size 1. So make sure that your texts can be read by the general public on the move without a magnifying glass.

5. Clickable elements close together

The thumb is known to be larger than the mouse pointer on a desktop device. Therefore, the clickable elements such as the buttons and links on the mobile devices cannot be so close together, otherwise the users cannot click specifically and in the worst case, end up on a completely different page than the one they wanted and then jump off. So it is better to check by yourself whether all the links and the buttons on your mobile site can be clearly distinguished from one another and whether a user can specifically touch it.

6. Tables with too much content

Even if a table is responsive and adapted to the screen size, that does not mean that it is automatically easy to read. Often too much information is stored in the tables, which is easy to read on the desktop PCs, but become a confusing monster table on the mobile devices.

So limit yourself to the most important information in the tables and keep it as brief as possible. Test yourself whether your tables are easy to read on the mobile devices - otherwise you should simply leave it out. It is better than frustrating the user.

7. A linking structure that relies too much on header navigation

A meaningful and targeted internal linking is the be-all and end-all for a website - on the desktop and mobile devices. On the second, it is even more important, since the header navigation is even less present here. The user should be directed from his entry page to where he would like to be. Most of the time this is the conclusion of the purchase.

However, you should not forget the search intent of the user, i.e. the user's expectations of the search query. Try to direct the user through the internal links to the helpful pages that answer his questions as much as possible and at the same time convince him of your products.

Try to set up the so-called silos, in which the numerous sub-pages refer to a central page for the respective silo with a flat hierarchy (= low folder depth), which offers the simple possibilities for contacting or making a purchase.

8. A burger menu on a desktop page

We have found that you cannot transfer everything from the mobile to the desktop: at some point there always comes a point where it becomes too much. We discovered this point with the burger menu. The 3 horizontal stripes, which are quickly recognized as hinged navigation on the mobile devices, tend to lead to confusion for the desktop users and can have a negative impact on the Google ranking due to the apparently deteriorated usability.

Some features that are recommended for the mobile devices do not translate to the desktop pages. Keep that in mind before you start making your desktop site completely like your mobile site.

How to check your website for its mobile performance

In order to check or monitor how your own website is performing on the move, it is important to use the right tools. The technical aspects should also be considered. As with a house, the technical foundation for a website is crucial for the durability and the stability. So it would be much better to consult an SEO agency, in order to set up a good mobile performance.

Check the mobile pages for the gross errors with Google Search Console

The Google Search Console automatically shows you the important errors in the version for mobile of your website, including:
The affected pages are conveniently linked directly to the respective error message. Check these pages and, if necessary, make the adjustments to optimize the mobile display and the usability of your pages.

Another tool for testing the usability of the mobile version

In addition, Google provides another free mobile friendly testing tool with which the individual pages can be checked for its mobile friendliness. Please note that this tool does not always run perfectly - it can often happen that the important style sheets are not loaded by the tool and the targeted page appears to the tool as not mobile-friendly.

Make sure you are not making the gross mistakes with the usability of your mobile website. Otherwise, you may not only lose the visitors but also your ranking in the Google search engines.

Check structured markup for errors

Google offers a free tool for checking the individual pages for the structured data markups. Go to the Structured Data Testing Tool, enter the URL of the page you want and click "Run Test".

Get the URL in Google's Structured Data Testing Tool.

Check your URLs, for correct marking using structured data.

The page source text is then displayed on the left-hand side and the markups found in it on the right-hand side, including any errors.

If you are not yet using the structured data, you are strongly advised to do so at this point. The data make it easier for both the search engines and the user to quickly grasp the important properties of your pages. Certain markups such as the recipes or the products can also result in an expanded display of your content in the search engines.

Check and optimize the mobile charging time

An important and not to be underestimated ranking factor for the websites has been the loading time since the introduction of Mobile First, because this has a strong influence on whether the users stay on a website or leave it again. Probably you have already made the experience yourself: If the loading time is too long, you leave the page annoyed. The time until the first rendering of the page should be a maximum of 3 seconds - otherwise you run the risk of losing most of your mobile visitors again.

The following measures can help to reduce the loading time of many websites:

My visitors mainly come via desktop - can I save myself the optimization?

The very clear answer: no. Even if your visitors currently (still) mainly come via the desktop PCs, as it is sometimes the case in the B2B area, the mobile version of your website is still decisive for its ranking. Apart from that, the development of the share of the mobile users in the B2B area only knows one direction: steadily upwards. Even if most of the visitors currently see the desktop side: in the future, it will increasingly be the mobile side that will give the important first impression.

Summary: The new Google ranking factors since Mobile First

It cannot be said that the Google update, which introduced Mobile First indexing, shook up the Internet and the search results. Rather, it is an adaptation to a development that has been going on for a long time and which no one can resist: the ever-increasing proportion of the mobile users in the network.

Therefore the Google ranking factors for the websites are not fundamentally different than before. Content, links and general accessibility continue to count primarily. However, the following factors have been of a particular importance since the introduction of Mobile First:
First create a sensible strategy for your mobile website before you implement it and thus avoid the most common mistakes right from the start. Above all, always pay attention to the user experience or the context in which the user moves: How does the user get to the product, how does he behave in which environment? What touch points are there? What is his aim? Keep in mind that the mobile content is usually consumed differently, if only because of the much smaller screen. Be brief when it comes to the key statements and above all, note that not all information can be displayed on all the screens.

The mobile users usually want to get information quickly and clearly and be directed to where they want to go.

Interested in SEO? Check out our other articles on the Semalt blog.

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