When you start digging into the Google Search algorithm changes over time, there have been indications that Google will start favorizing sites that are turned on the user experience. Finally, starting from the 1st of September, using the desktop version for indexing and ranking is replaced with using a mobile version of the content.
Among others, the mobile-first index affects Shopify stores and businesses too. So, if you are running an e-commerce business and still not familiar with the mobile-first, check out your Google Search Console for the changes declare and prepare yourself to modify.
Changes of Google algorithm
The first clue was given more than four years ago, exactly on 21 April 2015, Google required all of the web pages to be optimized for mobile and announced its algorithm changes in favor of mobile-optimized sites. Since then, Google accordingly updated information, slowly preparing all of the site owners to think about implementing a mobile-first strategy. As expected, on December 2017, Google started testing mobile-first indexing on a couple of sites. The final announcement that mobile-first indexing will happen on all new domains was made two years ago, in July 2019. When it will affect existing sites too, it was just a matter of time.
Officially, starting from the first of September, the same year, Google Search Console notified website owners about new indexing. Mobile-first indexing together with smartphone Googlebot became a standard we all need to adapt to.
Common questions about mobile-first index
What is mobile-first indexing?
Simply put together, Google observes the mobile version to crawl and index, instead of earlier usage of the desktop version for the same purpose. Anyway, mobile-first indexing will influence the desktop version of the site ranking too, it will affect rankings on all devices, not only searches made from mobile.
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Although you can’t choose to opt-out from mobile-first indexing, you can choose to make your site mobile-friendly and still be satisfied with new rankings.
Is mobile-first the same as mobile responsive?
A majority of people think mobile responsive is the same as mobile-first or mobile-friendly. To explain further, responsive is considered a page built in such a way to ensure it recognizes device size and orientation and change website layout to fit. When we speak about mobile-first, the page is built in such a way that it could be extremely easy for using on small screens like on mobile devices. It means, your site can be responsive but still not be mobile-friendly.
Is there a connection between page loading speed and mobile-first?
Last year, a signal that uses page speed to help determine a page’s mobile search ranking was added. This was not awkward because the first quartal of 2019 showed nearly 50% of searches were made with mobile and the percentage is growing MoM. What we can say for sure is that mobile-first indexing isn’t the only thing made to satisfy the large mobile majority. It is a part of upcoming changes in favor of the fast loading sites.
Among many others, the mobile-first index affects Shopify stores too
Luckily, Shopify themes themselves are responsive the way they are. Shopify offers a great selection of responsive themes that are optimized for every possible layout and screen resolution, which is great for indexing. What’s not so great is that Shopify themes are well-known for poor performance. Now the changes are happening, this is something to think about when choosing a new, or optimizing an old theme.
Even though, there is more than improving the theme you can do to upgrade your Shopify business and get the maximum out of Googlebot smartphone
How to get maximum out of Googlebot smartphone and improve Search Rank [TIPS]
1. Check for mobile-first index status on Google Search Console for your Shopify store
URL Inspection Tool allows you to see when was the last time your site indexed and crawled, and how. Anyway, when your site is ready, you will get notified within Console, so make sure to check it from time to time. If you are changing a domain, you will be automatically indexed as mobile-first, there is no adaptation period so be prepared in front. For existing websites, Google determines their readiness for mobile-first indexing based on parity of content (including text, images, videos, links), structured data, and other meta-data (for example, titles and descriptions, robots meta tags).
2. Check mobile traffic in Google Analytics.
Taken away the fact Shopify stores are responsive the way they are, new indexing can change your site behavior. Spend time in your Analytics in the next couple of months. If there is a match between Google notification about index change and traffic decrease, you may have to consider rearranging content to be more mobile-friendly and match the user expectations. The information should be delivered without difficulties for customers, like ie. zooming in is.
3. Improve Shopify store speed
If you want to cope up with the new algorithm, you must improve speed. Speed is crucial if you want more mobile sales too. If you are struggling with speed and bounce rate, and still want to be “in the game” a new format called PWA (Progressive Web App) is something to think about.
Even 90% of the time spent on mobile is spent using apps. This is not strange cause apps are easy to use, don’t require an internet connection and are extremely engaging. Shops upgraded to PWAs are super fast, work offline and can be installed as an app. Not to mention they are among Google smartphone favorites to put at the top of results, because of their performance loved by mobile users. One additional reason PWA is the “new thing” everyone is talking about is due to PWA upgraded sites load a lot faster thanks to Service Workers.
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They can take control over network requests, modify them and serve custom responses retrieved from the cache. Upgrading to PWA doesn’t require time and money, even though it looks like that. AmpifyMe offers a plug and plays solution for PWA and it is a less than a minute setup.
4. Use AMP technology
According to Searchmetrics, mobile pages ranked from 1 to 5 in Search Results load faster than the results below. By simply announcing mobile-first indexing and speed as a ranking factor, Google indicated using AMP in the future is the key to success. This trend continues with stories, AMP mail, etc. If we follow these steps, it will be a matter of time when AMP will be officially declared as a ranking factor.
Using AMP, still having a bad code, can make your Search Rank even worse. If you want AMP pages not designated as such, they must have content parity with the related canonical page; otherwise, Google will ignore your AMP page and revert to your canonical page. AmpifyMe offers a range of official Shopify themes in the AMP version, all ensuring that the pages are user-friendly and the same when it comes to content. Validation of the new mobile pages is a part of the solution too. If you are considering AMP as your new additional improvement, there is a solution trusted by more than 10.000 customers.
It is a fact, the user experience will be as important as the relevant information, you better prepare for it.
Favor the user experience
If you want to keep up with good SEO practices in the future, you must follow Google's constant changes in favor of users. It is not just the point where you show relevant information, it is, even more, how fast your page loads and how the user feels about when using it. If you are not following a mobile-friendly approach you might have serious consequences. Even though more than just responsive seems irrelevant at the moment.