UX Strategies For Google’s Mobile First Index

UX Strategies For Google’s Mobile First Index

Mobile-First Index

Mobile First – New UX Strategies You Need

Implementing mobile-focused UX (user-experience) is now more important than ever, as the mobile first index is progressively rolled out across all websites.

The mobile version of your website is now used as the starting point for determining rankings. In the past, the desktop was always crawled first, and mobile was considered the alternate version of a site.

But now, in a response to the consumer shift to mobile search, Google has mandated mobile first indexing.

You will be notified through Google Search Console when mobile first is activated for your website.

Simply check for a message in your Search Console (if you don’t already have Google Search Console set up, we would highly recommend it). The message will have the subject “mobile-first indexing is enabled for … ”

You may also notice an increased crawl rate from the Smartphone Googlebot. Google will also start showing the mobile version of pages increasingly in search results and Google cached pages.

Why has Google shifted the way it thinks about your website?

We are undergoing a “mobile revolution” and have been for some time.

Mobile is simply the new standard for searching. We used to think of mobile searches only occurring when people were on the go. But now over 50% of searches now occur on mobile devices and more people are favouring mobile search for at home, work and on the go.

Google always wants to offer the best search experience. So, it’s only natural that they would update their crawling, indexing and ranking systems to use the mobile version of a page first. The updated process will better help searchers find what they are looking for.

Google has been experimenting with the new system for a year and a half. It started migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile friendliness over to the index first. We have also started to see it being rapidly rolled out in Search Console for our own clients at Alpha Digital.

After seeing that mobile-friendly sites have a performance lift throughout the changeover, we have compiled our insights and advice to help you adapt your UX strategies for the mobile-led changes.

If you aren’t already thinking mobile first, then now is the time.

What does this mean for you?

Despite many misconceptions, Google will continue to have a single index that they use to serve search results. However, they will be increasingly using mobile versions of content for indexing. Therefore, if we want to get technical (which we do), this is mobile-first crawling, not mobile-first indexing.

Previously, if your mobile experience wasn’t quite up to scratch, you could tell Google to crawl the desktop version of your website first. However, now mobile is the primary version of a website for everyone.

This is a big change in how Google thinks about your website. The shift reflects customer’s behavioural trends.

If you aren’t optimizing your website experience for mobile, then you will be falling behind your competitors. Customers want fast-loading, easy to navigate, rich mobile content that they can access on the go.

To keep your website conversions and performance strong, you need to have a mobile-led UX strategy. This has big implications for the design and content displayed on your mobile website. You can forget about having a slim content strategy for mobile. Now if your content is on desktop and not mobile, Google (and your customers) may miss it.

SEOs and marketing teams must shift how they think. Mobile websites need the same TLC that desktops have had in the past.

So, what exactly does that look like?

  • Mobile pages need full content (just like desktop)
  • Content needs to be strategically displayed on smaller screen space
  • User experience needs to be enhanced for mobile
  • Mobile sites need easy navigation, search options and clear call to actions.

While you will still be represented in Google’s index with desktop content only, you will not rank as well in comparison to mobile friendly websites. You will also be perceived as having a poorer user experience than other sites, negatively affecting your overall rankings and customer experiences with your brand.

Link between mobile friendliness and and site performance

This data indicates a positive correlation between mobile friendliness and site performance. The trend lines for average position, impressions and click through rates have increased after the introduction of mobile first indexing (mobile traffic only). 

A Mobile CRO Roadmap:

The goal of CRO (conversion rate optimisation) is to design a website that improves UX and structuring it in a way that will get your customers converting. Naturally, people interact with websites differently on mobile versus desktop. They are in a different mindset when they use each device, and the simple difference of screen sizes makes a huge impact on how a website needs to be structured.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for CRO, as it depends greatly on your industry, business and target customer. However, here are 5 Mobile CRO tactics you can adopt when developing your mobile-led strategy.

Mobile first indexing UX strategies infographic

1. Analyse your mobile conversion data

It all begins with data. It is going to tell you how customers have been interacting with your website and should be closely reviewed for insights that can guide your mobile CRO strategy.

Look through your mobile conversion data in Google Analytics and assess if there are any unusual drop off points. For example, you might notice that the conversion rate on android is a lot lower than on other devices. That means, you should investigate the user experience on that device.

You could discover that the “Add to Cart” button has disappeared, and customers simply can’t follow through to purchase or convert. It could also be that the button is too small, and customers can’t find it on android mobiles.

Not only is that extremely frustrating for your customers, Google is also always collecting ranking signals from these user experience touchpoints.

Compare conversion rates across devices and pages in Google Analytics and look for aspects of your website that are over or underperforming. Think about how you can use these insights to enhance your mobile friendliness and rankings over your competitors.

2. Secondly, run some mobile user testing

User testing is a UX methodology in which you present a website to a typical user who then navigates through a series of tasks while narrating their experience along the way. This direct feedback is a true measure of mobile friendliness, from your users’ perspective. Their insights can be used to improve your website’s ease of use and performance on mobile.

Some typical questions you might like to ask throughout mobile user testing are:

  • Is the content easy to scan and comprehend on the mobile screen?
  • Are pop ups annoying, difficult to use or blocking content?
  • Are the pages on the website loading fast enough?
  • Do the search bar and filters work?
  • Is the site easy to navigate?
  • Is visual content engaging?
  • Are buttons visible and easy to click on the smaller screen?
  • Is excessive scrolling required to find important information?

It’s essential to listen to user feedback objectively- the users experience is always right. Try not to guide users on how to use the website, instead let them work through it so that you can truly uncover any pain points. Base your test on real-world conditions and observe at least five actual users (this number is known to uncover about 85% of usability problems).

Listen and observe your users closely and take notes on any issues they run into. Fix these pain points and be sure to retest. We recommend to complete split testing on your findings and recommendations to ensure that you’re not rejigging the whole website based on just one user’s isolated feedback.

3. Make your content mobile friendly:

Screen space is prime real estate on smaller mobile devices. The challenge for mobile CRO is now ensuring that the mobile version of your website has all the same valuable content that exists on your desktop.

Here are some tips on how to create a rich content experience that can be navigated with ease on mobile.

  • Set appropriate image widths: Ensure image sizes fit smaller mobile screens.
  • Make sure that content formats can be crawled: For example, ensure that you have included alt attributes for mobile images.
  • Provide infographics: Infographics help users to understand your content in an instant. They are very user friendly and are shared on social media more than any other form of content.
  • Use a variety of media: Audio and visuals perform very well on mobile. When combined with text they create a better experience for a larger range of visitors.
  • Break up long form content: A long blog post might be great for desktop, but it’s overwhelming on a mobile device. Use shorter paragraphs and break up text with rich visual media.

While it can be tempting to offer a streamlined version of your content, it is best practice to collapse your content on mobile now. Leaving additional content exclusive to desktop might cause Google to miss your valuable keywords and highly relevant content.

Instead, utilise read more options, bullet points, and keep headings short and succinct.

Implementing a responsive design is also a strong long-term strategy to help you rank with the mobile-first index. A mobile responsive design means that your content and web design changes to fit the size of any screen. Instead of having a separate mobile and desktop website, it allows your one site to work seamlessly across devices. Your content does not need to be recreated and you get 2-for-1 value.

4. Reduce your load time

Google has made it very clear that slow-loading content will not be favoured in desktop and mobile search. Searchers want answers fast. In fact, if your website takes longer than 3 seconds to load, most users are likely to leave. There’s no point taking so much effort to get them there and losing them due to a page speed oversight. Therefore, Google is using page speed as a strong ranking signal for desktop and mobile.

Average page load time from Google Analytics

You’ll find that in most instances, if your site is providing a good experience but has a rather disappointing page speed, you’ll have an increased bounce rate. By reducing page speed your bounce rate will improve.

Here are 3 simple speed optimizations that you can start implementing on your website today:

  • Use script minification: Remove all unnecessary characters from your source code.
  • Optimise your images: Ensure that image sizes are less than 1000 kb. You can still get the image quality you need at this smaller size, and this will speed up your website drastically.
  • Remove unnecessary plugins: Plugins will weigh down your load time. Remove any that aren’t being used.
  • Improve your hosting solution.
  • Get digital marketing and development teams working together to find the solution.

You can also investigate using CDNs to minimize the distance between visitors and your website’s server with cached versions of your content. Accelerated Mobile Pages are also an open-source Google innovation released in 2016, which are designed to make mobile website content load almost instantly.

Also think about how you can speed up your customers’ experience on-site. It’s a no brainer that people are busy these days.

  • Offer instant mobile payment for ease of check out.
  • Utilise geo locations to determine a user’s location.
  • Streamline landing page forms to reduce friction.

While customer data is important for CRM, people don’t want to fill out more than a name and email field on subscriber forms. Is it necessary for them to create an account before they purchase? Why not give them the option?

Ease mobile customers through the check out process and don’t create any barriers to purchase.

5. Enhance User Experience

It’s very clear now that user behavior is different on mobile. There are a multitude of ways that we can meet user expectations for speed, convenience and engagement.

  • Ensure all valuable information is above the fold. Users should know the purpose of the page instantly.
  • Incorporate one-click sharing options to all major social media platforms.
  • Create search options and filters at the top of all web pages.
  • Make it easy to navigate between product pages and landing pages.
  • Scale mobile web pages for both landscape and portrait.
  • Highlight clear and specific call to actions like directions, share or add to bag. The old saying applies- ask and you shall receive. Tell users what they’re meant to do on a page and guide them to your desired conversions.

You can also test your site with the Google mobile friendly tool.

It gives you a quick measure as to whether your site is mobile optimized (in Google’s eyes) and what you need to improve.

It will give you insights into your page speed, estimated visitor loss, industry comparison. Best of all it gives you recommended fixes (which should be accompanied by the input of a professional).

Site owners, marketers, and SEOs need to think mobile first.

It’s very clear that we are no longer living in a desktop first world.

When devising and implementing your mobile CRO strategy, keep these key takeaways in mind:

  • Highly relevant content combined with a mobile-friendly user experience will increase your websites conversion rate and search engine visibility.
  • Responsive website design is an efficient way to get mobile friendly.
  • Fast load time and a convenient user experience is now crucial for both desktop and mobile performance.

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