When customers look for a contractor to install new flooring or renovate their kitchen, there’s a strong chance they’ll use their smartphone. People are more likely to use mobile devices when looking up local businesses, and mobile searches now make up roughly 60 percent of all search volume.
In keeping with these trends in search traffic, Google has switched to mobile-first indexing. If you want Google to properly index your contractor website, and if you want to get an edge on your competitors by performing well in search rankings, you need to make sure your site is optimized for a mobile-first world.
Why You Need to Adapt to Mobile-First Indexing
Allowing your site to be crawled
To show up in search results, websites need to be discovered by the crawlers that search engines send out. Crawlers gather data from the pages that make up your site, including the main page, the landing pages for specific services, and your contact page.
Given that Google dominates the market for search traffic, it’s crucial for its crawlers to find your website intelligible. With mobile-first indexing, it’s especially important to make your site friendly to Googlebot Smartphone, a crawler that explores the mobile versions of sites.
Staying competitive through mobile optimization
It used to be that the desktop version of your site, the version that appears on computers, took precedence for Google. The desktop version was the most influential one for indexing and search performance. Mobile-first indexing is a critical change in Google’s priorities. Currently, the mobile version of your site is what Google primarily relies on when it comes to both indexing your content and ranking you in search results.
If your site doesn’t have an optimized mobile version, you won’t suddenly vanish from searches. But you won’t be performing as well as you can, and Google may not even index some of your pages. You’ll be at a disadvantage in comparison to contractors who have optimized their sites for mobile searches.
Improved customer experience is another reason to invest in mobile optimization. Making your site friendlier to web crawlers can potentially make it friendlier to customers. Some of the strategies for adapting to mobile-first indexing will make your site more usable and attractive to anyone visiting it on a smartphone.
How Should You Change Your Site?
1) Make your site’s mobile version match its desktop version
Check for disparities in content
The way your website has been constructed, you may have two versions of it: one geared to desktop devices and another to mobile devices. These versions may differ in content and structure, including text, images, and site organization.
If the differences are significant, the switch to mobile-first indexing is more likely to affect how crawlers read your site and how you rank in search results. A poorly designed mobile version will lead to a drop in ranking. Also, if the mobile version of your site is more skeletal, containing less content, Google will have less to work with when reading and interpreting it.
When examining differences in content, make sure to not overlook the metadata, the information that site visitors can’t see but that web crawlers pick up on. For instance, both versions of your site should have the same meta descriptions for pages and the same structured data.
Use responsive design
If your business has a responsive website, you’ve already overcome the difficulties of having separate mobile and desktop versions of your site. A responsive design means that your site has only one version, and it fluidly changes for different screen sizes.
Even if you aren’t skilled at building websites, a simple implementation of responsive design is doable. Content management systems like WordPress offer website themes that are responsive, and you can preview what your site will look like on different devices.
As useful as it may be to adopt a responsive design, you’ll still need to check that Google’s mobile crawlers can read your site’s content and understand its overall organization, particularly the hierarchy of the pages.
You’ll also need to check that the site performs well when it reforms to fit a smartphone screen. Even if your site is responsive, there’s still more you can do to improve its search rankings and make it usable and appealing to customers.
2) Boost your site’s speed
When customers click on your site, does it load quickly? The longer they have to wait for a page to load, the more likely it is that they’ll get impatient and move on. This is especially true when they’re using smartphones and feel like the content should simply materialize at their fingertips. With faster times, you increase the chances that customers will contact you for a quote.
Along with speeding up page loading for customers, you need to do it for better search results. In 2018, Google announced that speed influences the ranking of pages in mobile searches. The aim is to get each page to load in less than three seconds.
There are multiple ways to speed up page loading, such as:
Simplifying your code
Simplifying your site’s design
A site with too many fancy features will generally be slower. For example, custom fonts and animations typically make a page load more slowly. If your site relies on too many plugins, these extra pieces of software will add to load times.
Photos and videos also present a problem. On the one hand, images can be compelling proof of your mastery of construction and renovations. On the other hand, they’re a burden on your site’s resources.
Along with carefully formatting the images, you’ll need to be selective about what you display and how they all load. A large collection of images may be best not on a landing page but as a gallery on a separate portfolio page.
Images allow customers to see evidence of your workmanship, and they’re also an important part of your site’s layout, including its logo and header.
Image optimization for smartphone users includes:
Choosing the right format. For example, there’s a general preference for JPEGs, because they have smaller file sizes and demand fewer resources. But PNG may be the optimal choice in some cases, and the image quality may be better. You can have a mix of image types on your site; test how they look and how they affect your page load.
Compressing images. The details on your images don’t always have to be incredibly crisp. In most cases, you can compress images without any notable sacrifice in quality, and the drop in file size will be a boon for your page speed. There are a number of tools that help with image compression, such as ImageOptim and Optimole.
Choosing the right dimensions. The appropriate dimensions for images depend in large part on where they’re displayed, with obvious differences between a thumbnail and a header image. In your code, you can write instructions for how an image should appear on different screen sizes.
Using lazy loading. Some of your images may be under the fold of your website. That means they aren’t embedded in the top part of the page, and they don’t need to be among the first items to load. Lazy loading is a kind of deferral; the images can wait to load until site visitors scroll down to see them. If you’re using lazy loading, whether for images or other content, just be sure to check that the content doesn’t remain entirely hidden from Google’s mobile crawlers.
Minimizing the use of redirects
With redirects, website users get automatically transferred from one URL to another. The process takes time and increases the length of page loading.
Taking advantage of caching
If a website user has already clicked on your site once, the site shouldn’t have to entirely reload during subsequent visits on the same browser. With browser caching, much of your site’s content will be stored locally on the user’s device.
There are multiple ways to leverage browser caching, including plugins and modifications to your htaccess file.
Finding a better hosting package
The company that hosts your site on its servers may not be providing you with enough storage and bandwidth. You may need to buy another hosting package from them or switch to a different company that provides more consistent service at a better value.
3) Fix issues with your site
When evaluating your site, try to experience it the way a smartphone user would. Some of the issues that detract from user experience also influence the way Google reads and ranks your site. These issues include:
- Intrusive and poorly placed ads.
- Missing pages, images, and text, including the alt text that should be present in an image tag.
- Buttons, icons, and links that are too small or spaced too close together, making it difficult for site visitors to click on them with a finger.
- Font size that’s too small.
Also, be sure to test that your site isn’t blocking Google’s crawlers in various ways. A page may have a no-index tag that keeps Google from indexing it. Robots.txt may be blocking an important image from appearing in search results. Some URLs may not be working, or their structure may impede indexing.
4) Test your site
One of the best resources for checking your site’s performance is Google Search Console. For starters, it will tell you if your site has already been shifted to mobile-first indexing. By this point, it probably has.
Google Search Console tools also give you insights into your web traffic and point out issues with your site, including problems that may affect its functionality and appearance among smartphone users. Check your site using its mobile-friendly test tool.
Other important tests involve page loading. You want to gain insight into what’s causing different pages to load slowly. The best tools for checking site speed include Pingdom and Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
Testing your website once won’t be enough to determine if it’s performing well. You’ll need to periodically return to certain tests, especially when you’ve updated your site or when Google makes changes to the factors that affect search ranking.
Professional Assistance With Your Site
As much as it may be an inconvenience for your business, mobile-first indexing isn’t a choice. You can’t ask Google to look only at the desktop version of your site.
Fortunately, there are effective ways to adapt to mobile-first indexing. With our assistance, you can make the necessary changes to your site and ensure that Google’s crawlers are finding your content and interpreting it correctly.
What’s more, we can modify your site to help it climb in search ranking and give you stronger conversion rates. Along with adjusting to Google’s change in priorities, you’ll be giving your customers a better experience when they find you with their smartphones.
Entrepreneur with 18 years experience launching and managing successful tech companies. As seen in New York Times, Inc.com, Smashing Magazine, Home Advisor and other various mainstream media.
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