Due to changes announced in the Google algorithm at the start of November 2016 called “Mobile First Indexing”, it isn’t an option anymore to have a properly optimized mobile website as part of your digital strategy.
This is Google’s response to a shift to the way people are using its search engine to find information online. Mid 2016 saw the cross over of more than 50% of searches being done from a mobile device and not a desktop. Google has now decided to create an algorithm that gives higher rankings to websites that are optimized for mobiles. Mobiles have smaller screens, download data slower and need a different user experience since we use them differently. All this and more is taken into account in the new ‘mobile first’ algorithm that is a separate algorithm that runs on mobile phones compared to the Google ranking algorithm that runs on desktops.
The main options we see out there are 3 types of mobile friendly sites. Each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Here is a short list:
- Separate mobile website - This is usually a mobile format site on a sub-domain or totally new url like .mobi. We strongly recommend against these types of sites because developers have to keep two sets of codes updated and in terms of SEO the links and onpage engagement to your main URL do not flow through.
- Dynamic websites – Dynamic sites suit certain types of businesses who want a totally different site to render on mobiles than desktops but they want to keep the same URL for SEO value.
- Responsive websites - This is the most common used type of mobile optimized website where the website is pretty much adjustable to screen-size and adapts to the users’ device. It uses the same text and images with a lot of floating div tags to allow content to roll. This is most efficient for developers and also is highly optimized for Google.
AMP pages have also come to the front of the lime light because a large part of Google’s aim is to allow mobile pages to render as quickly as possible. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Page. It uses HTML and AMP java script to render mobile pages at lightning speed. There are a few issues since these pages are heavily cached and are stored on Google servers (so they load faster) but do require special coding (yet not complex) and also need special tracking code so you can get analytics. AMP pages suit more static text based sites like blogs and news sites and less so eCommerce sites (although eBay is experimenting with AMPs).
In the end, the world in 2017 and beyond is moving towards using mobile phones to find information and make purchases a lot more. Google is facilitating this trend with their mobile first algorithm and business need to ensure they are fully optimized with the right technical requirements so that they are ranked high, get relevant online traffic and continue to achieve their online sales goals. So if you are not fully mobile optimized now in 2017, you are already behind the ball and should consult an expert in the field.