What Does the Google Mobile First Index Mean for Your Ranking?

We are becoming more and more addicted to technology and using our smartphones for all the answers we need. The numbers are staggering - 2 trillion Google searches are made each year and more than half of them are made from mobile devices.

What’s even more important is that more than 30% of all online purchases are made on smartphones and tablets. This is a serious portion of E-Commerce consumers and the search engines need to adapt to the growing demand for a more mobile-friendly experience on all levels.

Google already adjusted their algorithm to improve the user experience when using the search engine. Now, when you make a search on your mobile device, Google tries to rank sites with good mobile versions and responsive properties, among many other factors.

The latest update called Mobile-First Indexing is looking like the next game changer for the digital world.

What does Mobile-first indexing mean?

The current index that Google uses when showing results tends to weigh in desktop versions the most when estimating how relevant the website is for users.

This means that if a customer Googles something on a desktop, the search engine will rank the results according to the desktop versions of the websites. The Mobile-first index will aim to gradually change this in favor of the mobile user majority and utilize the mobile version content of websites more when estimating their relevance.

If Google decides to implement the new algorithm, there may be some changes in the rankings.

The new update will use the mobile version of your website to determine its overall ranking, including the desktop version, hence the name - mobile-first indexing.

If the content on your site’s mobile version is different from the desktop one, this means you will probably need to do some changes to the markup structure. The content should be equivalent across both versions of your website.

An important note here is that this will not mean that desktop users will start getting a poor search experience. If Google go through with the update, it will be just an addition to their service for users across all devices.

I have a responsive website. Am I OK?

Yes, responsive websites have literally nothing to worry about since the content and structure markup are the same across all devices. The search engines do not get confused when indexing the different versions of the site and there are no conflicts with the amount of content.

When will the update take effect?

The team behind the search engine is already testing the new indexing method and have not yet announced when it will be fully implemented. It all depends on the results of their testing.

If the testing period goes well, Google might implement the algorithm sooner than expected. If the test is not so successful, they will probably pull back and continue working on it before the official launch.

What’s the reason behind the update?

It’s important to understand that the primary aim of Google is not to affect the current ranking of websites to any significant degree. This is simply the next step of the evolution towards a more mobile-friendly experience for users.

How to Optimize Your OpenCart Store for the Mobile-Friendly Index

Like with most Google updates, there are things we need to tweak in our websites to maintain their ranking and keep up the pace.

However, since the default OpenCart 2 template is responsive by default, there’s no need to do anything besides optimizing your website to be more mobile friendly than it is now.

If your OpenCart store is running older versions like 1.5.x, this means that it is not responsive by default and you are using a mobile version. The best solution for that is to upgrade to OpenCart 2 and consider a responsive template so you can be sure that there will not be any problems with your site’s ranking.

Mobile-Friendliness Killers

There are many things that can kill the good mobile experience of your website.

Using Flash? Stop. Now.

Firefox has already knocked Adobe Flash out of the game. It’s an outdated player and Google Chrome will soon start blocking it practically everywhere as well. It’s a security liability and the recommended substitute for it is having an HTML5 player instead.

Eliminate Intrusive Popups

A while back, we wrote about another incoming Google update that targets your popups on mobile devices. If you are using popups and they are not following the mobile-friendly standards, your site might get lower ranking.

Here’s a good-looking popup in an OpenCart store. The Close button is easy to see and use, the text and CTA button are also clear and readable.

Render-Blocking Resources

CSS files and JavaScript are additional resources that your browser has to load while rendering the web page you are trying to open. The problems that may occur with them are due to the fact that the render has to be paused while those external files are loaded, since they change the way the page looks.

In OpenCart this issue is fixed by NitroPack. The newest version of the optimization framework now serves critical CSS rules directly with the HTML of your web pages, so they no longer render poorly, looking like basic articles.

Page Speed is Substantial for Ranking

There are two factors about PageSpeed that can make or break the future of your business. First, 40% of online shoppers will leave your website if it takes 3 seconds or more to load. Furthermore, Google are months away from adding the mobile page speed score into the entire ranking of your site.

This means that if your smartphone or tablet are taking too long to open your OpenCart store, its rankings will start suffering. Another place where NitroPack can shine by combining all of the Google PageSpeed optimization rules and standards to boost the overall website performance up to 30 times.

Optimize Mobile Usability

Since mobile users use their fingers to navigate through your website, the layout, positions and sizes of each element have to be adapted to that. You can’t have too small buttons and links, or text and images that appear tiny on smartphone screens.

Over to you

In general, OpenCart store owners with a responsive template don’t have too much to worry about the upcoming Mobile-first indexing update from Google. However, the truth is in the details once again, so pay attention to factors that will always be important - PageSpeed, mobile-friendly design, and intrusive elements.

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