How To Optimize Your Ecommerce Store For The Mobile-First Index

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Guest post by Charlie Carpenter

The mobile-first index is coming! But what does that mean for your ecommerce store? Let’s take a look…
What is the mobile-first index?

In the past, Google has always used desktop content to rank your website on both desktop and mobile.
However, with an increasing number of browsers using mobile devices, it was announced in 2016 that this would change.

With mobile-first, instead of using content from your desktop site, Google uses the content on your mobile site to index and rank your pages.

Speculation has been rampant about when this change would take effect, but the move seems imminent, making it more important than ever to optimize your store accordingly.

For stores with fully responsive ecommerce sites, the impact will be negligible. After all, your content will theoretically be the same across both desktop and mobile, meaning your rankings will be largely unaffected.

However, some designers choose to use mobile sites that show less content in order to provide a better UX. And if some of that content has strong SEO benefits on desktop, you’ll need to consider how that might affect your rankings.

There are a few steps you can take to make sure your site is all set for mobile-first.

1. Check mobile friendliness.

The first and most basic step is, of course, to make sure your website is mobile friendly.

You can do this in a matter of seconds using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. Just enter your website’s URL, and Google will report back whether your page is mobile friendly—and report back with any issues it finds.

mobile friendly test

2. Carry out a parity audit.

A parity audit, in simple terms, crawls two or more versions of a website available on the same URL, comparing the differences and looking for errors.

This sounds like an intimidating process, but it’s actually much simpler than you might think. In September 2017, Moz published an awesome article that explains how and why to do a mobile/desktop parity audit. The article runs you through the whole process and is well worth a look.

3. Check (and optimize) your page speed.

It’s hardly a shocking statement that page speed is a huge deal in the world of SEO. If your site doesn’t load fast, it will affect your rankings on mobile (not to mention how you’ll lose an average of 7% of users with every additional second your page takes to load and render).

Fortunately, it’s easy to check your website’s speed using tools like Google’s Page Speed Insights and Web Page Test. Again, enter your URL and wait for the results. Not only is your page speed graded across mobile and desktop, but you’ll also see a range of suggested improvements.

page speed tools

page stats

4. Navigate and check your site.

For all of the software and tools you can use to identify issues with your mobile site, perhaps the best source of learning is your own experience. Take the time to navigate your site for yourself using your mobile device or a mobile browser emulator that allows you to test various screen sizes.

mobile browser emulator
print on demand
print on demand reimagined
As you’re clicking through your site, ask yourself a variety of questions: Are the buttons easy to press? Is the text legible without pinching and zooming? Does it look good in both portrait and landscape?

The “bread and butter” parts of SEO are all underpinned by UX and they always will be. In other words, make sure the UX is great and everything else should fall into place.

5. Ditch the Flash and Pop-ups.

There are two points to be made here. First, mobile devices don’t support Flash so you should avoid content that requires the installation of this technology. Go for HTML5 and JavaScript as alternatives.

Second, there’s mounting evidence that Google is penalizing interstitial content (basically a fancy term for pop-ups) so avoid displaying content that interrupts the user experience.

To conclude…

In this article, you’ve learned five basic ‘low hanging fruits’ that are important to grasp now before mobile D-Day arrives.

What steps are you taking to optimize your ecommerce store for the mobile-first index? Get in touch and let us know!

About the author: Charlie Carpenter is the co-founder and CEO of Kite. He is a mobile advocate with over ten years of industry experience. After working for large and small agencies for many years, he co-founded Kite, a software solution for print-on-demand, zero inventory merchandise and personalized photo print goods.

In addition to being an entrepreneur, Charlie is a seasoned product strategist with experience with various types of digital projects, including Responsive and Adaptive Websites, Mobile & Tablet Apps, Hybrid Apps, and Cross Platform App development. You can connect with Charlie on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.