Blog Post

What Is Mobile First? – A Look at Mobile Speed, UX and The Impact on Performance

April 25, 2018
Table of Contents

Google has put an emphasis on the importance of mobile optimization for a long time now, and if for any reason you didn’t think it was that important or truly the future before, it’s without question time to listen up and get on board. But if you’re one of many business owners or marketers asking yourself “What exactly does mobile first mean, again?” you’re A) not alone and B) in the right place.

Outlined below is an explanation of what mobile-first indexing is, and if you didn’t prepare for the mobile-first algorithm update already, learn a few basic steps you can take to quickly identify whether or not you have room for mobile improvement (which, let’s be honest, there’s a slim chance you’re doing everything perfectly).

So, What is The Mobile-First Index?

On March 26th Google officially confirmed they’re rolling out the mobile-first index they’ve been testing for over a year and a half. This shift to mobile first means the mobile version of your website’s pages become the baseline for determining rankings and what Google indexes. So if your mobile experience isn’t optimal, this can impact your organic rankings, traffic, and revenue. In Google’s words, “Our crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page’s content, which may cause issues for mobile searchers when that version is vastly different from the mobile version. Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking.”


What Does Optimal Mean For Mobile?

It means a whole lot more than just having a responsively designed website or an m. version of your site, if that’s what you were thinking or hoping. Here are some key mobile optimization guidelines:

  • Your pages should load very quickly
  • Your pages should not require any horizontal scrolling
  • Your website’s text should be legible without users having to tap or zoom
  • Your tap targets (i.e. clickable links and buttons) should be spaced appropriately so users can click what they are intending to and easily avoid clicking the wrong buttons
  • Your pages should not contain content that can only be viewed or played on a tablet or desktop device (i.e. all content should be playable on mobile devices)

How Important is Speed?

We know that since 2010 Google has been using page speed as a ranking factor. But in January 2018 Google officially announced that beginning July 2018, they will begin using page speed as a mobile ranking factor as well. So it’s clear speed is an area to prioritize, unless your Google PageSpeed mobile optimization score is already well into the 90-100 range. If your score is below 90, it’s recommended to follow Google’s detailed instructions to get that score as close to a perfect 100 as possible. While it takes a lot more than a perfect PageSpeed score to rank well (i.e. high quality content, optimized user experience, etc.),  those in the SEO industry know that it’s a critical piece of the SEO success puzzle.

Where Do I Start to Identify Areas For Improvement?

As mentioned above, if your Google mobile PageSpeed score isn’t already in the 90-100 range, then you definitely have room for improvement. Running a report on Google’s free tool will give you specific areas of improvement page by page, but some of the most commonly seen areas for improvement are as follows:

  • Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript in above-the-fold content. The above-the-fold content on your pages should be able to be rendered without waiting for the resources to load. Try to defer or asynchronously load blocking resources, or inline the critical portions of those resources directly in the HTML
  • Optimize CSS delivery
  • Reduce server response time
  • Enable compression with gzip or deflate to reduce the number of bytes sent over the network. Enable compression for resources to reduce their transfer size.
  • Leverage browser caching, as setting an expiry date or a maximum age in the HTTP headers for static resources instructs the browser to load previously downloaded resources from local disk rather than over the network.
  • Minify JavaScript, as compacting JavaScript code can save many bytes of data and speed up downloading, parsing, and execution time.

Have your web development team address all issues reported by Google and you’ll be on your way to that 90-100 range.

What Trends Should I Look For in My Analytics Data?

If you have Google Analytics or another reporting platform such as Adobe Analytics, a year over year analysis of your organic mobile traffic and organic mobile conversion rate should quickly tell you if your mobile performance is trending up or down. If you’re one of many brands seeing your mobile traffic flat or trending down, or if your conversion rates just aren’t where they should be then you have some areas for improvement.

If your traffic is trending down, conduct an analysis of your mobile rankings to identify areas for optimization. Look for specific keywords that have lost visibility over time. Do the corresponding landing pages have room for improvement with page speed or mobile usability? And if your mobile conversion rate is trending down, conduct mobile conversion rate optimization (CRO) or mobile A/B tests to identify areas for improvement for your mobile visitors.

What Other Data Can I Look at For Insights?

Google Search Console data can show you a trended view of your mobile impressions, clicks, click through rate (CTR) and average position. In addition to conducting an analysis of your analytics data, looking for any downward trends in this data can also be informative. If your average ranking position on mobile is slipping, take a look at the mobile search engine results pages (SERPs) and see which competitors are ranking above you. Analyze the top rankings sites to see what they are doing well and what type of experience they are offering their mobile users.

What Other Resources are Available to Help Me Navigate the World of Mobile Optimization?

Google’s Guide to Winning the Shift to Mobile explains why modern-day consumers expect brands to consistently address their needs and how you can make sure your brand and your website can keep up. Section 4 specifically outlines why mobile speed is key to success, the full guide is worth a read, especially if your website is e-commerce.

What Can I Do If I’m Completely Overwhelmed?

Here at Power Digital, we live and breathe mobile optimization. From page speed to mobile rank analyses to mobile CRO, we’ve got you covered. Request a free assessment today.

Empowering you to break the mold.

Kind of like a full-service agency, kind of like an in-house CMO. Elevate your brand's presence with custom strategy, channel expertise, and flawless execution.

Learn More