By now, you’ve probably heard that Google is in the process of moving to mobile-first indexing. That means Google will crawl your site with a mobile agent and index it accordingly.
Unfortunately, that also means you’ll likely need to make some changes in your digital marketing strategy if you want to stay competitive.
Here are some inconvenient truths that all SEOs must realize about Google’s new mobile-first index.
1. Desktop Websites Will No Longer Matter for Rankings
If you have a desktop-only website, you’re going to get left behind as your competitors develop websites that are more responsive.
Of course, you hopefully realized that long before Google announced that it was moving to a mobile-first index.
Sure, you might have taken comfort from the announcement that Google will crawl your desktop website and rank it accordingly. But you can be sure that it’s not likely to rank nearly as well as sites that are optimized for mobile technology.
If you haven’t already moved to a responsive web theme (or some type of mobile optimization), now is the time to do so.
2. You Need to Get AMP-Ready
Google is gung-ho on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). That’s because AMP loads pages very quickly.
If your website runs a blog (and it should) and you haven’t yet AMPed up your blog pages, you’re limiting your reach.
Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to AMPlify your site if you’re using WordPress. That’s because there’s a great AMP plugin that you can install and activate to automatically publish your blog posts in AMP format.
If you’re not using WordPress, you’re probably going to need to hire a development team to get your site up to speed on AMP. It’s a process best left to professionals.
3. You Still Need a Lot of Text to Rank, but Need to Get Creative With UX
Don’t be shy about continuing with longform content just because Google is moving to a mobile-first index. You’re still much more likely to rank better in the search engine results pages (SERPs) when you post content with more than 1,500 words.
However, you might need to make adjustments to your user interface. That’s because you’ve got quite a bit more digital real estate on the screen when your site is displayed on a desktop or laptop versus when it’s displayed on a smartphone in portrait mode.
The good news is that you can make use of nifty UI elements, like accordions and tabs, when displaying your site on a mobile device. Google has already announced that it won’t penalize you for hiding content behind those elements.
If you’re in doubt about how well your site works for mobile users, feel free to check it out with the Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
4. You Need to Review All Your Pages for Mobile CRO Best Practices
You might have spent countless hours designing, split-testing, and perfecting your UI so that you maximize conversions.
Unfortunately, you might have done that with a desktop audience in mind.
Now, it’s time to revisit your conversion rate optimization (CRO) efforts and ensure that people who use a mobile device will click on your call to action (CTA) button. Be sure to optimize for different orientations (portrait vs. landscape), devices (smartphone, tablet, and phablet) and screen sizes.
5. Page Speed Needs to Be Fast
As we’ve seen, Google loves speed. That’s why you should move your content to AMP.
But what about the rest of your site? That needs to load fast too, even if it’s not suitable for AMP.
The good news is that you can test the speed of your site with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Just plug the URL of your site into the text field on that page, click the “Analyze” button, and Google will give you a score (from 0-100) showing you how fast your site loads.
6. You Need to Focus Even More on User Intent and the 5-Second Rule
If somebody leaves your site within 5 seconds, then that means you’ve probably done something wrong from a user experience (UX) perspective.
People are busy. They want to find what they’re looking for quickly.
That means your website needs to determine user intent up-front and make it as easy as possible for potential customers to get to where they want to go.
What’s more important now, though, is that you need to do that for people who are using smartphones, tablets, and phablets.
7. Artificial Intelligence Weeds out the Bad Pages, Your Pages Better Be Good
Have you heard? Google is using artificial intelligence.
That means you won’t be able to fool Google into thinking your content is awesome when it’s really not. If you’re accustomed to using low-quality writers or spinning content just so you can get something longform on your site without much effort, you’re going to get caught and lose rank.
That’s why you need to invest either time and/or money to produce quality content on your website.
8. Subdomain Optimization and Vary HTTP Headers Probably Won’t Work Long Term
Once upon a time, in the early days of mobile technology, web designers created separate domains and used the Vary user agent to show different pages to people on different devices.
For example, people on a desktop would see a page from one subdomain while people on a smartphone would see a page from another subdomain.
It’s probably a good idea to dispense with that strategy going forward. Instead, it’s much better to build a responsive site that adapts output to the screen size of the user’s device. That way, you won’t have to worry about indexing different pages from different subdomains.