As we move through 2018, the importance of preparing your site for the mobile-first index grows every day.
Since the announcement of the move to the mobile-first index way back in November 2016, SEO forums have been awash with comment and speculation about the rollout.
Whilst no fixed date has yet been set, there seems no doubt that the move is imminent and that Google is in fact already rolling this out, although very softly, to specific sites around the world.
Despite the long notice period, there are still so many sites out there who have yet to ‘prepare’ for the rollout, meaning a lot of scrambling could lie ahead.
For ecommerce sites, the job of preparing for the mobile-first index is often much bigger than information-led sites. With hundreds, thousands and possibly millions of product pages, ensuring that those pages are just as crawlable, indexable and ultimately as ‘rankable’ on mobile as they are on desktop is a huge task.
As you might or might not know, Google will soon be switching from a desktop index to a mobile-first index.
Instead of using the content from your desktop site, Google will be using the content on your mobile site to index and rank your pages.
The majority of major ecommerce sites are now ‘mobile-friendly’ meaning they are accessible on a mobile device without the need to pinch and zoom.
This can be done in a couple of ways: mobile-responsive or on a specific mobile site (usually an m. site).
If you have a fully responsive e-commerce website design, the impact of the mobile-first index will not be that big for you. Theoretically, the responsive version of your site that Google sees on mobile is exactly the same as desktop.
Sometimes, however, designers and developers like to tweak the content that is seen on mobile in order to deliver a better UX so it is still worth carrying out a parity audit of both your desktop and mobile versions to make sure you are not missing a trick.
If you have a separate m. site, then you need to pay close attention. You probably set up that site to deliver a pared-down version of your site on mobile to improve the UX.
If there is a big disparity between the content on your desktop version and your mobile version, however, you could find yourself dropping in the rankings when the new index kicks in.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at how you can prepare for the move to the mobile-first index with some actionable tips that you can start deploying today.
Optimizing for the mobile-first index includes:
One of the main reasons for shifting to the mobile-first index is Google’s desire to speed up the mobile web.
Faster sites offer a much better user experience (UX) so improving your page load speed will help you rank better in the new mobile-first index.
This is particularly important for ecommerce websites. As mobile traffic has now overtaken desktop, it is going to be crucial to get more people switching over to mobile in order to carry out those all-important conversions rather than switching back to desktop at the purchase stage.
Speeding up the experience is a great way of keeping users engaged on the site and there are a few ways you can do this.
Some of the most common issues found on sites include:
If you are still finding it hard to speed up your pages, you could also look at new technologies as a potential solution. Things like AMP, PWAs and PWAMP are becoming much more accessible to ecommerce sites as Google attempts to make the mobile web a faster place.
For ecommerce sites, there is typically one goal: a sale. Getting people to convert on a mobile device is a huge signal to Google that your site delivers a great UX that meets the customer’s needs.
There are lots of things you can do to improve conversions on mobile but streamlining the checkout process is the major one. Here are some tactics:
Good site search is essential to a great mobile UX. With fewer navigation options to play with, delivering a great site search functionality is key to getting people where you want them to go for ecommerce sites.
A quality internal site search function means that not only can the user find what they are looking for quickly and efficiently, but you can also gather data about the things that people search for, allowing you to refine your navigation, product descriptions and even product offers. Triple winner.
Things to consider for your internal site search include:
Often overlooked, the way that users interact with your site can make a huge difference to their overall experience, especially for ecommerce sites.
Whilst pinching and zooming is often considered a bad thing, many people still pinch and zoom on ecommerce sites when they want to get a real close-up of a product.
A small image with poor resolution and no option to pinch and zoom creates a negative experience and is unlikely to lead to a transaction.
Another area that is easy to overlook is the keyboard you serve the user. Make sure it is fit for purpose.
At the credit card details step at checkout, you need to have a numbers-only keyboard. Likewise, in the email field, give them the keyboard with the ‘@’ sign and the common email ending such as ‘gmail.com’ or ‘hotmail.com’.
Crucial to the user experience is the ease of reading the content on your site and engaging with it. SEO content is still a must, but making your content accessible is a key indicator to Google that your site is not only mobile-friendly but mobile-optimized.
It is important that the copy is legible without zooming. Use 16px as your base font size and scale relatively as needed and allow your font sizes to scale within the viewport for the best possible experience.
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to click on a button on a website and either a) hitting the wrong button because they are too close
b) having to zoom in order to hit the button.
Both of these are negative user experience but can be easily remedied by following two easy steps:
This is something ecommerce sites need to focus on as we move towards the mobile-first index.
When you are designing new pages, you should always design mobile first and then think about how this will scale to landscape, then to tablet and finally to desktop. Make sure you use every inch of real estate on whatever screen size you are designing for and ensure that when the page scales, it scales to use every inch.
These five tips are just a handful of the things you can be doing to prepare your online store for the mobile-first index. Hopefully, by doing those changes, your ecommerce site will be in a much stronger position once the update is rolled out across websites worldwide.
If you are struggling to start with all this, follow our simple checklist below and start ticking things off:
Once you have ticked off all these, your ecommerce site will not only be mobile-friendly, it will be mobile-first optimized.
This article was contributed by Gavin Hirst.
Gavin Hirst is a Brit working abroad. He is a copywriter, SEO and content marketing expert working for one of Auckland’s leading SEO agencies, Digital Hothouse in New Zealand. Outside of work, Gavin is a keen golfer and is passionate about the outdoors – hence the move to NZ! Connect with Gavin on LinkedIn or with Digital Hothouse on Twitter and keep up to date with all the latest digital marketing news and trends in NZ and across the world.
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