How to Prepare for Google’s Big Mobile First Index Update

How can you tell if your site is ready for Google’s mobile-first index? It’s a big update that Google’s currently testing and rolling out as we speak. In this post, I’ll go over Google’s new Speed Test tool which shows how your site stacks up compared to others in your industry for mobile, and gives you suggestions on how to improve your site.

First off, you may be asking, “What the heck is a mobile-first index?”

It’s exactly what it sounds like — Google’s planning to have one index going forward based on mobile content, which will serve to both desktop and mobile users, so mobile trumps everything. Google’s algorithm is going to use the mobile version of your site to rank your content, which is also another big deal, right?

Some of you are saying, “Well, I don’t have a mobile version of my site.” Look, you may or may not be hurt by this. If you only have a desktop version of your site, Google will still take that content, but when it comes and takes a look at your site, it’s going to do so as a mobile user. It’s going to look at your desktop site as it would from a mobile phone, that kind of thing. If you have a poor site speed or mobile user experience, your rankings are going to suffer.

Here are three steps that you can take to get your website prepared for Google’s mobile-first update.

If you don’t have a responsive site, go get one.

It’s not overly expensive to do so anymore, so there’s really no reason for most people to not have a responsive site at this point.

First things first, make sure that that box is checked.

When you’re testing changes and you’re looking at your site, don’t look at it on a big, giant iMac, look at it from your phone instead.

Think about the user experience. Use Google Analytics to monitor that experience and optimize for mobile users.

Helpfully, Google’s introduced a new tool to help test and improve your site speed, but this is where I see a lot of people falling down. They have a responsive site, they maybe have HTTPS and things like that, and the user experience is okay, but when you start to look at it, it’s not that great because the site speed is bogging everything down.

Google’s mobile speed test is available here:

The process is very simple, it’s very easy to use — you enter in your URL and it’ll give you a speed rank, and a list of recommendations on how to improve it.

I read an article the other day that Lululemon’s website was having some issues. They’re obviously a really big company — I picked them to test out their site.

One thing I noticed right away with the site — there’s no HTTPS, so that’s probably a red flag as to what’s about to happen.

You can enter any site into the Google speed test and you can still put in your email and get the report, so you don’t have to own the site to test it (which is interesting from a competitor intelligence perspective). The tool emulates a 3G cell phone connection in order to show you how well your pages are performing at that rate.

Based on my initial tests, Google estimated that the page took 15 seconds to load, which Google says could be losing you up to 32% of your visitors. Also, the site didn’t not pass the usability guidelines — that can come down site congestion, maybe they were having a heavy load, things like that.

When you test your site, test it every 5 or 10 minutes. Test it again and get an average going so that you have a fair representation.

The next test I conducted was seven seconds — still not great, still not passing usability guidelines. The next one was also seven seconds, and the one after that was eight seconds. I think the 7 to 8-second range is probably more reliable, but it does show that during heavy load, it might spike up to 15 seconds. Still not acceptable.

You can see that Google has an industry comparison, and if you download this report — you need to enter your email to do it; it takes about 45 minutes to generate and email you. The report is chock-full of advice on how to make your site faster.

The takeaway here is Google’s about to rank Lululemon — and your site — based on how well you do on mobile. If you go here and you see performance results like these, you’re going to have to fix it.

Let me know here, or on Twitter how your site fares, what your load times are, and some of the issues that Google’s pointing out. I’m happy to answer any questions you have.

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