Is Your Website Ready for Google’s Mobile First Initiative?

February 23, 2021
Ian McNickle
Ian McNickle

Ian McNickle leads WEO Media’s sales, marketing, consulting, and business development teams (weomedia.com). He brings more than 20 years’ combined experience in technology, business development, sales, marketing, and operations. He lectures extensively throughout North America on all aspects of dental marketing and practice growth at dental conferences, study clubs, and continuing education events. In 2019, Ian published his first book, Mastering Practice Growth: The Definitive Guide for Growing Your Dental Practice or Dental Group. In addition, he writes articles on a wide range of marketing and growth-related topics for publications such as Dental Products Report®, Dental Economics, The Progressive Dentist, and many others.

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Cory Roletto
Cory Roletto

Cory Roletto leads the operations team at WEO Media, an award-winning dental marketing and web development agency (weomedia.com). He brings more than 20 years’ combined experience in technology, business consulting, marketing, and operations. Cory began his career at Intel, where he served as a key member of the competitive marketing team. He received 12 awards at the divisional level or higher while at Intel and many of his engineering and marketing innovations are still used at Intel today. Cory has a BS in chemical engineering and an MBA from the University of Washington.

Dental Products Report, Dental Products Report March 2021, Volume 55, Issue 3

Starting in March, Google search rankings will index websites based on their appearance and performance on mobile devices.

What is Google’s Mobile First Initiative?

Mobile First is a multiyear series of ranking algorithm changes to shift focus from desktop computers to mobile devices. For the past 5 years the volume of search on mobile devices has exceeded desktop traffic, so this move does make sense. The final transition is called Mobile First Indexing, which will be completed in March 2021. This will complete the transition from desktop to mobile algorithms.

Desktop Algorithm > Desktop Algorithm & Mobile Algorithm > Mobile Algorithm (March 2021)

At the highest level, Google’s intent is 2-fold:

  1. Make It Easier for Google: Google split mobile and desktop search into 2 algorithms in 2016. This rewarded those who spent time to customize the user experience on desktop and mobile separately. Although good in theory, it took significant effort to maintain. Consolidating to 1 algorithm is less work.
  2. Focus on Mobile Search:With mobile search volume exceeding desktop, and the desire to move to 1 algorithm, shifting to the mobile algorithm made the most sense.

This is a departure from past algorithm changes, which primarily focused on improving user experience. Mobile First indexing is more about efficiency and reduced complexity for Google’s operations.

Scope of Mobile First

Website design technology and code change significantly about every 2 years, with much of it driven by screen size and resolution of devices as well as Google’s agenda.

Since April 21, 2015, when Google introduced “Mobile Friendly” tests into its algorithm,1 dedicated mobile websites have proven the best for user experience and conversion.2 They were concise, easier to navigate, quicker, and more readily provided information a person searching on a mobile device desired.

Google’s Mobile First initiative is massive. It is a total reversal from the original preference for dedicated mobile sites. Website designers and SEO agencies will need to ensure their sites do not fall into irrelevance by meeting Google’s mobile expectations.

According to Google, by March 2021 its algorithm will only consider content on the mobile website for ranking. It will ignore any content that only shows up on the desktop version of a website.2 However, content is still king, so the more unique content on a website the better. Gone are the days of being more concise or customizing content for a better mobile experience. Now you need to show everything on mobile.

What This Could Mean for You

If you have a fully responsive website with no customization for mobile visitors, then you will probably be fine. If there has been customization on your website, you may need to remove media calls that exclude content on mobile versus desktop and confirm the website still formats correctly.

If you have a dedicated mobile website, you probably will need to rebuild the entire website as soon as possible. If you have a desktop-only website, then it will be completely dropped from Google’s index.3 So if you care about being found in a Google search, you will need to build a new website as early as possible.

Next Steps

If you do not know the details of your mobile website, ask your website designer or SEO agency. Hopefully they have already contacted you about making sure your site is ready for Google’s search update. Any high quality website designer should be well-prepared for this change, just as they should have been prepared for the launch of the original Google mobile algorithm and then made the adjustment to responsive sites in recent years. Time is of the essence if changes need to be made, especially if you need to move away from a dedicated mobile or desktop only website.

References

  1. Makino T, Phan D. Rolling out the mobile-friendly update. Google Search Central. Accessed February 4, 2021. https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2015/04/rolling-out-mobile-friendly-update
  2. Responsive web design, dedicated mobile site or mobile app—how to choose? Digivate. Accessed February 4, 2021. https://www.digivate.com/blog/mobile/responsive-web-design-dedicated-mobile-site-or-mobile-app/
  3. Montti R. Google Mobile First Index—zero desktop content March 2021. Search Engine Journal. Accessed February 4, 2021. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-mobile-index-news-from-pubcon-virtual-2020/384111/
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