How to Prepare Your WordPress Site for the Upcoming Google Mobile Index

Written by Pressable on
Cell phone showing a mobile friendly website

Google’s mobile-first indexing is on its way very soon. If you’ve been paying attention, then you probably should have already been moving towards mobile. After all, mobile traffic probably makes up a lot of your existing traffic. Google has already been underway with this shift for years and pushing site owners to adopt better mobile practices. It’s been over a year since the original announcement, and as of March 28th, 2018 the rollout of this index has begun. Now, it won’t happen straight away, and it’ll be a slow shift. But, smart site owners will switch up their sites and content strategies in order to be better suited to this new index. Below you’ll learn what mobile-first indexing actually is, and what you can do to prepare your site for this new index moving forward.

What Is Mobile-First Indexing?

The mobile-first index shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

Google has been pushing towards mobile with a lot of their algorithm updates. Remember the effect that the Mobilegeddon update had?

Essentially, Google noticed that more and more people are using their mobile devices to browse the internet, namely mobile search. However, the current website indexing method was entirely based on the desktop version of the site.

This could lead to lapses in user experience, and users could end up on sites that aren’t the most relevant to their search phrase. Which is bad news for Google.

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The new Google index will place a priority on the mobile version of your site when it comes to rankings. Your desktop versions will still have a place in the index, they just won’t be given as much value as the mobile version.

The changes will happen slowly. You won’t have to worry about all of your traffic disappearing overnight. But, as a proactive website owner, you don’t want to wait for your site to get hit before you take action.

Preparing Your Site for the Mobile-First Index

The core of the mobile index shift revolves around thinking mobile-first. It’s about moving beyond the desktop and having mobile users at the front of your mind. From your design to your content, to the nuts and bolts of how you structure your site.

Below we offer five ways you can improve your existing site to ensure top rankings for the new mobile index.

1. Run Your Site Through the Google Mobile-Friendly Test

The first step is knowing where you stand. Luckily, Google has a tool that’ll tell you how well optimized you are for the mobile landscape.

If you want to test how mobile-friendly or responsive your site is then run it through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

The results from this test will give you a breakdown of your overall mobile optimization, as well as some tips to improve your site.

2. Choose a Responsive WordPress Theme

Using WordPress already puts you ahead of the game as most themes are already mobile responsive right out of the box. However, if you’re currently using an older theme, or haven’t updated your site in a while then you could be behind the ball.

If you’re using an old theme that hasn’t been upgraded, or your developer is no longer in touch, then switching to a new theme would be a great call moving forward. There are a ton of incredible WordPress theme marketplaces that offer responsive themes, like:

Even though upgrading your site to a new theme might seem like a big shift, in reality, you’re just prepping your site for the future.

If you don’t want to do an entire site overhaul you also have the option of using a WordPress mobile plugin. It’s not the best approach to take over the long-term, but it can be one of the simplest ways to make your site mobile friendly.

Some of the best mobile conversion plugins include:

3. Optimize Your Site’s Speed

Site speed still remains one of the most important mobile optimization factors. Your site speed will influence everything from the user experience to bounce rates and more.

Having a slow-loading mobile site will not only kill conversions, but it’ll ruin your chances of building a relationship with a visitor in the first place.

The best way to improve site speed is to get a baseline figure from tools like GTMetrix, or Pingdom, then use the tips in this post to improve that number.

4. Integrate Google AMP

Google AMP is a Google project whose goal is to improve the speed of mobile websites. It allows you to offer a stripped down version of your site to mobile visitors. Plus, since you’re a WordPress user there are a number of plugins that’ll make it easy to implement.

However, before you utilize one of these plugins be aware that this conversion can have a pretty big impact on the overall structure of your site.

So, before you do a 100% conversion it’s worth testing.

That being said, here are some of the top plugins that’ll help you out:

5. Think About Mobile Website Architecture

Finally, you have to think about how mobile users are going to be interacting with your site. With a desktop interface, you have a lot more real estate to work with. But, with the smaller mobile screens, you’re limited to a much smaller screen size.

Think about the goal for every page on your site and strip away elements that are distracting to the reader, or will make it so they have to resize the screen to view your site.

Another thing you’ll want to think about is your navigation. If you have a complex and confusing dropdown menu this won’t transition very well to the mobile-screen. Try to pare down your categories to offer a simpler navigation experience.

The transition to the mobile-first index isn’t something to fear. By implementing the tips above your site will be prepared for the change, and you shouldn’t see any loss in your current rankings.

Once again, if site speed is an issue, then it’s probably a good idea to invest in a high-quality WordPress host like Pressable.

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