Mobile-First Index: why you should focus on it

The popularity of mobile search is growing every year, and mobile traffic in search engines is increasing too. According to the Statista report, more than 50% of all requests on the Internet are made from mobile phones. Google i1s constantly improving its techniques and releasing thousands of updates. In order to keep firm positions in search results, your resource should match these requirements. In 2016, Google announced the start of testing a new search algorithm based on prioritizing mobile-friendly sites. If initially Google’s indexing and ranking systems prioritized desktop versions of sites, now it will look at sites through the eyes of a mobile user. The technology had to be implemented in September 2020, but it was postponed to March 2021. It allows all site owners to optimize their resources and adapt them to new requirements.

How to check if the site is optimized for mobile devices?

With the help of Google’s instruments, you can quickly evaluate the efficiency of your site and define what areas need to be improved.

PageSpeed Insights. Google’s tool checks page load speed. It is the first step to ensure the speed of your resource is high enough. If we are talking about optimization, speeding up the loading of the site and its versions is the first step to take. The results will inform you what images need to be optimized with the help of an image uploader, about minification of CSS and JS, loading text without web fonts.

Google Mobile-Friendly Test. This tool is testing the usability of mobile pages. You just need to select a URL, insert it into the line, then follow the recommendations. Even if you get a positive result, take time to pay attention to the information describing problems loading that page. You will learn about the resources that Googlebot was unable to download. Pay attention to the scripts that are blocked open them for scanning.

Google Search Console. This instrument will provide a mobile usability report showing site errors. The most common issues are font size, the distance between interactive elements, viewport, horizontal content scrolling.

If the results are not satisfying, there are several ways to improve them.

How to optimize a website for the Mobile-first index?

Improve the display of all elements on the site

Optimize the navigation elements on the site, as well as the display of pictures, fonts, interactive icons. Check that the display of content is not wider than the screen of users’ devices. You can use a ready image transforming application to process photos without losing quality. Google recommends to use the following image formats:

  • WebP.
  • JPEG 2000.
  • JPEG XR.

Images of these formats require less mobile traffic to download and can undergo efficient compression algorithms.

Minimize codes

This process means the reduction of the source code size by removing unnecessary characters without affecting its functionality. This approach allows you to boost the overall site loading speed. It is vital to shrink images on the site as large files greatly increase the weight of the page and the site as a whole.

Use readable fonts

The size of the font is an important factor. Users struggle to read the content in small print and have to scale the screen to read the text. Not only font size, color matters as well. There is no need to make a diverse color palette in your posts or information pages.

Create a user-friendly design

During the development process, it is also important to realize how the site will look on mobile devices. Remove functionality you don’t plan to use and use vector icons and pictures. Such images do not lose quality when enlarged/reduced and are correctly displayed on any screen.

Implement AMP and CDN

Accelerated Mobile Pages is an open-source accelerated mobile page technology. It allows you to perform fast loading of web pages at low network speeds. Search engines like such sites as they meet important requirements: they load quickly and are adapted for mobile devices. You can also use an image CDN app that can radically improve the loading speed of videos and images.

Website technical optimization

Avoid the following features for mobile sites:

  • elements that require Flash Player to work;
  • drop-down menu items.

In such cases, HTML5 comes to the rescue, allowing you to replace everything you need for presenting information to the user, whether these are interactive elements or audio and video players.

Apply SEO optimization

When you create a mobile version of the site, do not forget to do the following:

  • Add a tag with rel = “alternate” attribute on each page of the desktop version of the site, which readdresses the visitor to the mobile version of the site.
  • Add a tag with rel = “canonical” attribute on each page of the mobile version of the site, which leads to the corresponding page of the main site.

A checklist for a mobile-friendly site

These simple rules will help you achieve not only high positions in the mobile search results but users’ approval, too. Ensure that your site meets the following parameters:

  • High download speed.
  • The HTTP/2 protocol is configured.
  • Intuitive navigation.
  • The font is not less than 12 px.
  • Clickable elements do not overlap. You can check it in Google Lighthouse.
  • The distance between interactive elements is at least 48px. You can check it in Google Lighthouse.
  • All links and phone numbers are clickable.
  • A one-click purchase option is available for online stores.
  • There are messenger icons.
  • Pop-ups and pop-up windows do not occupy the entire screen of a smartphone or tablet, they are convenient to close.
  • The text takes up less than one screen scroll.
  • Video, audio, and images are well optimized.

In real life, a site will not be able to take first positions in Google search results if it has no mobile or adaptive version as well as without proper optimization of this version.

It is important to understand that if you want to meet the requirements of the Mobile-first index algorithm, the optimization process should be continuous. You should always test your site and check it for errors both with Search Console and by tracking user interactions.

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