snail on internet cable by Columbus web design firm Sevell

In 2017, half of people using Google are searching from their mobile device. In certain industries, like home building, the percentage is even more. Because of that Google is testing what's called a "mobile first" version of its search indexing.

Google's "mobile first" algorithm is starting a program using Googlebots to index your website based on the mobile  version of your site, not  the desktop version (as they have before). Later this year, when Google starts using ONLY the mobile indexing algorithm, your Google ranking could take a hit.

Why would this new algorithm affect your Google ranking? And why is the mobile version of your website different than the desktop version of your website?

The difference: load time.

Load time is a major Google ranking signal, and has been for a while.

Your website's load time is affected when mobile users are looking at your website on a bus, in their car (hopefully, when they're stopped), in a coffee shop, or any number of places where they don't have a great connection. They might not have a good connection because they're either using a shared connection (ie: in a public place) or don't have good access to their 4G network. Certainly not the connection they have at home with their dedicated internet service. Without that high-speed connection, the mobile version of your current site could easily load very slowly. And that counts against you.

(Any decent Columbus website design firm should know how to build a good mobile-friendly website.)

How do you know if the mobile version of your website runs fast?

Google Speed Boost Testing. It's really a thing, and you need to ask your web design firm if they've run your website through that test to see if it received a passing grades in both mobile, and desktop, formats.

If they haven't, make sure they do it now. If they have no idea what you're talking about, talk to a different Columbus web design firm.

Here is a screen shot of what the Google Speed Boost Test results looks like.

SAcreen shot of passing test score of Google Speed Boost test by Columbus website design firm

Other benefits of a good mobile website.

A good mobile version of your desktop website will help your Google ranking, and if you run Google AdWords, they'll be less expensive. (See the video below.)

Well-designed, and optimized websites:

As a Columbus website design firm, every website we do is mobile-friendly, and often, we design the mobile versions first, and then the desktop version.

If you're not able to connect with your audience providing a good "mobile experience," two things happen:

  1. Google will demote your ranking from searches specifically conducted from a mobile device, and
  2. Even if someone does  find your site in a mobile search on a mobile device, a bad user experience can easily turn away a potential customer.

If for some reason you don't  know if your website is mobile-friendly, you can test how your website appears on a smart phone here. Below is how our website looks in the mobile-friendly test, but we knew that already. We've designed the mobile version of our website to show only 3, instead of 12, work samples to minimize scrolling, and for quicker load time, on the mobile-version of the homepage.

mobile-friendly homepage test by Columbus website design firm Sevell

Of course, most websites' responsive website is a version of their main website, so for those companies mobile first indexing doesn’t change things a whole lot, unless there's a slow load time.

Because a responsive site generally shows the same content as the desktop version of the site, the only (and ideal) difference is the way a mobile-friendly site formats the design elements based on the device it's being viewed on. So the good news for most websites is there'll be little change in how Google ranks your website. But why leave it to chance?

There be little change in how Google ranks your website, for now.

In 2016, Google just started testing the mobile first method of indexing your website. In the interim, Google will be using two "indexing" systems: the mobile index and the desktop index. During this time, Google will be showing some people results from the mobile index, and others, results from the desktop indexing algorithms. Of course, none of us will have any idea which index we’re seeing results from.

Eventually, and no one knows when of course, we'll all be seeing results from the mobile indexing algorithm.

How can you tell if Google is indexing your mobile pages?

There are two ways:

  1. Ask your web designer.
    Of course, if your web designer isn't up on SEO, they'll have no idea whether your website is being indexed by Google's mobile indexing algorithm or not.
  2. In the Google Search Console, you (or your web designer) can use the Fetch and Render tool.
    First, you should specify the mobile:smartphone user-agent and see the preview after the fetch and render process is finished. What Google will show in the "rendered results" is what Google's algorithms see, and indexes, from your mobile website. Should any content be missing, then ask a web designer how that can be fixed. Fix whatever needs to be fixed, and run through the process again.

Will this affect your current Google ranking?

From the multiple blogs we've read, as long as your responsive website is a version of your main, desktop website, with the same content, it shouldn't affect your ranking at all.

However, because Google says they're still doing their testing, it isn’t 100 percent clear. (We've read blogs saying it SHOULD and SHOULDN'T affect your Google ranking.) However, Gary Illyes, a webmaster trends analyst at Google, says they "cant' say anything definite about links yet. It’s too early for that because things are very much in motion.”

But Paul Haahra, a software Engineer at Google since 2002, and semi-official spokesperson for Google, says “I'd be very surprised to detect any effects of mobile-first indexing at this stage.” So from his perspective, there should be very little, or even no impact to your website's rankings in Google, after their "mobile-first algorithm ranking" is fully is effect.

In summary, a good mobile version of your website benefits you:

  1. You won't miss out on being indexed, and ranked well, by Google (and other search engines), and
  2. You'll be ahead of your competitors who haven't taken this into consideration for their website.

Hope you've found this article to be helpful.

And remember: if your web designer hasn't run the Google Speed Boost test on your website, make sure they do now. And f they don't know what you're talking about, you need to talk to a different web designer.