“Mobile First” means that Google will now consider the mobile version of your website as your primary version. Until now Google crawled your desktop version first and considered your mobile website as an alternate version; as a consequence, mobile versions of websites did not receive the same attention as desktop versions, in terms of backlinks, User Experience, speed…
Mobile First will reverse this. Your mobile website will become the starting point for what Google includes in the index and how they determine rankings; in addition, the cached versions of pages will usually be the mobile version. There is a rationale for this: Google reckons that by 2020 85% of searches will be from mobile.
How to optimise for “Mobile First”
If you have a distinct mobile website, you must ensure that your mobile website contains the same great content, structured data and metadata markup, XML and media sitemaps as your desktop website. Additionally, make sure you verify your mobile version on Google Search Console, as well as your desktop version.
If your website and mobile versions are equivalent, you do not need to worry about technical aspects but still make sure that your mobile version offers an excellent User Experience. Here are some User Experience best practice which will help your Mobile First SEO
Check your mobile speed with Google’s Testmysite tool. This will tell you if your mobile site passes or fails and -if it fails- it will give you directions on how to fix it. Usual fixes include compressing images, minifying code and reducing cache times. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) will also help reduce load times as they will load much faster than regular HTML. Sometimes minifying code may involve sacrificing some design features; this is ok as long as it does not hamper user experience (more of this below).
Make sure navigation is always clear
Especially things like navigating backwords and forwards, check-out processes or contact details on mobile should be clear at any time
Above the fold still counts
In a mobile environment, you can scroll endlessly but above the fold is still important; make sure your most important information is readily visible without needing to scroll too much
Use drop-down menus
Space is limited on mobile; Google knows this well and has already said that it will not punish websites for hiding content behind drop-down menus. Just make sure you have a clear hierarchy in your content. We will discuss content hierarchy in depth in the next poat.
Limit obstructing pop-ups
A chat box which takes only a fraction of space on your desktop, may completely obstruct a mobile screen putting your visitors off.
Check there is not hidden text
Visit every page of your website from mobile and check carefully that no text is hidden from view, even if the hidden text is not essential. Be very meticulous; no matter how hard you look, something will escape you.
Make sure you size and space your tap target appropriately
Your mobile website must be finger-friendly: don’t annoy your visitors by having tap targets which don’t work or are too small, or get covered by a keyboard every time someone tries to enter text.
Lack of user-friendly mobile experience will impact negatively on your rankings and harm your business. Google has made it very clear: mobile first will be completely rolled out within two years, so if you are not ready, you have some time to prepare yourself.