Mobile Search Engine Optimization (SEO): How to Optimize Your WordPress Website for Mobile-First Indexing

Mobile first indexing

Quick question: is your WordPress website optimized for mobile-first indexing? 

Google no longer ranks websites primarily based on their desktop performance. Instead, the search engine giant now prioritizes their mobile performance when ranking sites. This new approach is known as mobile-first indexing, and it’s a hot topic in both SEO and WordPress design and development circles. 

So, if you want the highest possible high rankings on the world’s leading search engine, you must now optimize your WordPress website for mobile-first indexing.

Overview of Mobile-First Indexing

Mobile-first indexing is an approach to ranking and indexing websites based on their mobile performance rather than their desktop performance. Google announced it in November 2016. In a post published on the official Search Console Central Blog, Google explained that most of its users perform searches on mobile devices. Therefore, it was updating its crawling algorithm to use a mobile perspective.

With mobile-first indexing, Google crawls websites based on how users see and interact with them on a mobile device. While it still has a single database of indexed websites, Google now crawls websites using a smartphone agent, meaning it sees them from a mobile viewpoint. Google then uses this information to rank and index websites.

Be Consistent With Robots Directives

You should check your website’s robots directives to ensure they are consistent. Robots directives are snippets of hidden code that tell search engines how they should crawl your website. You can create them in a text file known as a robots.txt file, or you can create them in standard meta tags or X-Robots-Tag headers.

Depending on how it was designed, your website may have a desktop version and a mobile version. Most websites, in fact, are available in two versions. If you’re going to use robots directives on your website, make sure they are the same on both versions. Any robots directives featured on your website’s desktop version should also be featured on its mobile version.

Improve Mobile Loading Speed

To optimize your website for mobile-first indexing, you need to improve the speed at which it loads on mobile devices. No website loads instantly. When a user clicks a link to your website, his or her browser must download the page’s files. The time it takes browsers to complete the download process and render the page, though, may differ depending on the user’s device type.

Your website may load quickly for desktop users but slowly for mobile users. Desktop loading speed doesn’t affect Google search rankings. Now that it uses mobile-first indexing, Google only takes into account mobile loading speed. By making your website load quickly on mobile devices, you’ll optimize it for mobile-first indexing.

To improve mobile loading speed, follow these tips: 

Serve the Same Content

You should serve the same content to all of your website’s users. Regardless of their device type, users should see the same content when viewing your website. Serving different content to desktop users and mobile users may result in a loss of Google search rankings.

Content, of course, is one of Google’s main ranking signals. Google will evaluate your website’s content to identify relevant keywords for which it should rank. If you serve less content or different content to mobile users, it may rank your website lower. Google even says that failure to serve the same content to mobile users and desktop users will usually result in a loss of search traffic.

Be Cautious with Lazy-Loading Content

If the mobile version of your website has any lazy-loaded content, you should check it to verify that Google can crawl the content. Lazy loading is a JavaScript technique used to defer the loading of page resources.

Page resources can consist of blocks of text, images, videos, maps, and other types of content. Normally, all of these resources will begin loading simultaneously when a user accesses the page. Lazy loading is designed to delay the loading of one or more resources.

Lazy-loaded content can be problematic for mobile-first indexing. If a resource doesn’t begin loading at the same time as the page’s other resources, Google may not see it. And if Google can’t see it, the resource won’t benefit the page’s rankings.

You can use lazy-loaded content, but place it inside of the viewport and configure the resource or resources to load without requiring user interactions like clicking. In other words, users shouldn’t have to scroll or click anywhere on the page to see it. The lazy-loaded content should load automatically in the viewport where users, as well as Google, can see it.

Choose High-Quality Images

Image quality matters for mobile-first indexing. Your website probably has images, which desktop and mobile users will see. Even if the images are essentially the same, they may appear as lower quality when viewed on a mobile device than a desktop device.

To help webmasters prepare for mobile-first indexing, Google published a set of optimization guidelines. Among these guidelines is the use of high-quality images for websites’ mobile versions. Take a look at how to choose the right image file type.

According to Google, images may appear smaller and, thus, lower quality when viewed on a mobile device. If a page has a dozen images, for instance, they’ll probably look large and detailed when viewed on a desktop device. Conversely, the images may look small and blurry when viewed on a mobile device. You can still serve the same images to mobile and desktop users. To prevent them from looking small and blurry, use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to adjust the size of the mobile-viewed images so that they fill most of the viewport.

Final Thoughts

Mobile-first indexing signals a new era of SEO. SEO has always revolved around optimizing websites for higher search rankings. The introduction of mobile-first indexing, though, means that Google will now rank your website based on its mobile performance. To optimize your website for mobile-first indexing, be consistent with robots directives, improve mobile loading speed, serve the same content to all users, beware of lazy-loaded content and choose high-quality images.

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Jessica Frick

Jessica serves as the Director of Operations for Pressable and is dedicated to creating the best managed WordPress hosting experience possible. She’s been using WordPress since 2008, has been in WordPress-focused roles since 2010, and currently serves as one of the Make WordPress Hosting team reps. When she’s not working, you can find her spending time with her family, serving in her community, watching hilarious dog videos online, or brewing a pitcher of iced tea.

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