What differentiates a mobile-first website

Why should your website work seamlessly across all devices?

Websites designed to provide an optimal user experience whether accessed using smartphones, tablets or other small screens are mandatory across the web. Who says so? Google does. And as we all know, they are the search behemoth and hold sway across the internet.

Google goes mobile-first

In 2016 Google announced their intention of going mobile-first; indexing responsive or mobile compatible sites ahead of those which are not responsive or mobile compatible. In a Google webmaster blog post on December 18, 2017 they said, “Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.”  

Google wants to help people find the content they want, quickly and easily. Google does not want users to have sub-optimal experiences. So, what is an optimal experience? It is one that works seamlessly on all devices and where a user can very quickly find the content and information they desire.

Mobile matters because more searches are performed on mobile

In 2015 more mobile searches were completed than searches on desktop computers. Mobile is where it’s at.

Jumpshot monthly searches via Moz

This graph courtesy Rand Fishkin from MOZ

Mobile search dominates and voice search makes it easier

In 2017 voice search grabbed an increasing amount of user searches. This means mobile users are using their verbal queries to search for information. Therefore, not only are more searches being performed on mobile, they are being performed using speech and longer queries. Read our blog post about voice search.

The facts are clear: Websites which will have an edge in search results are responsive to device and present the best user experience no matter the screen or device type. Sites which fit this criteria will rank better on full-rollout of mobile-first. Of course the caveat on this is content.

Poor content and lack of engagement will not be trumped by a responsive website. As Google put it, “Make sure the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos – in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.”

What is responsive web design?

As Google defines it, “Responsive web design (RWD) is a setup where the server always sends the same HTML code to all devices and CSS is used to alter the rendering of the page on the device.” This tells us that every user sees the same content, no matter what type of device they use to visit your business on the web.

On RWD sites users don’t have to pinch or stretch a page to read the text or to click a button or enter text into a form. Neither does their device get served content that is different than what desktop users see. Google also tells us that there are no horizontal scroll bars to get to content which doesn’t fit the page.

What does responsive website look like?

Google provides the image below to help us comprehend the difference between a well done RWD site and Google recommends RWD as the way to go. Sites which are responsive elegantly display content so that it can be viewed and interacted with easily by the user, no matter their device.

Google image showing different size viewports and how they work on mobile devices

Consider the examples below of a restaurant whose website is not responsive to mobile devices. People trying to access this site on a phone cannot read the website’s home page or view the restaurant menu, nor can they easily interact with the site — the text is just too small. On the Home page a visitor cannot read the text in the featured blocks. Nor can they read the menu page text. If you wanted to submit your name to their newsletter signup form in the site’s footer, it would be hard to do as the form fields are so small.

Restaurant website not compatible on mobile    Menu page on a restaurant website that is not mobile friend.y


If this site was responsive, it would organize the blocks of content in such as way that you could interact with the site without expanding, or guessing or having fat finger fumbles. All the buttons on the site would be large enough for a finger to touch them without impacting any other content, eliminating fat finger errors.

In the example below, note how our website resizes as the edge of the window is dragged. This is an example of a site which is responsive.



The site’s content fluidly scales and then stacks to fit the screen size of the device. There is nothing the user needs to do to experience the site at the optimal size for their device’s screen. The site does the work. And this is the crucial element of a site that is responsive.

Another critical element is for all items on the site to function with touch. Remember on mobile devices there is no mouse click. So, what happens to your special elements and widgets when they are touched? Do they act as you expect them to? If they do great, they are mobile compatible.

Google does say that they are implementing mobile-first in a very deliberate way. “We continue to be cautious with rolling out mobile-first indexing. We believe taking this slowly will help webmasters get their sites ready for mobile users, and because of that, we currently don’t have a timeline for when it’s going to be completed.”

Just because Google is being cautious about mobile-first indexing is no reason for you to wait to get your site ready. Test your site now with Google’s Mobile Friendly detector to see if it’s mobile ready.

In the example of the restaurant site above, the Mobile Friendly detector notes:

What Google tells you when they determine your site is not mobile friend.y



But, Google doesn’t leave the site owner out in the cold. They offer tips and adjustments to make this site compatible with mobile devices. Suggestions are specific to the test results of the tested website.

Google's mobile friendly detector suggestions for website repair

What should you do if your site is not mobile ready?

If your site isn’t mobile friendly, you will need to upgrade it. This may mean changing your CMS’s theme or getting another theme. If you have a static html site, it means having your site recoded.

So, as you plan your mobile friendly website look for themes which are responsive. Test the theme demo in multiple devices (just as you should for your live site.) Testing a site across multiple devices can help you understand the experience various users have.

If you need help doing this, a professional consult might be the way to begin. If your site isn’t responsive and failed the Google mobile compatibility test, call us. We’ll give you a free consultation to learn how to make your site ready for mobile-first indexing.

10 Things you must do with your website


Are you cultivating your website?

A website is like a garden. It demands tending, and if not tended, it can fail to help you achieve your search goals.

With Google’s preference for real-time search, fresh content and social media presence, if you’ve allowed your site to remain static, you’ve signaled that your website is not connected to the rest of the world.

10 Things you MUST do to keep your website “findable”:

  1. Have a content managed website and create interesting, relevant content that is about your business.
  2. Include a blog in your website.
  3. Post regularly to your blog.
  4. Categorize your blog posts.
  5. Have a News section or news category on your blog and post your new client news, new product news and new hire news here.
  6. Share your posts via Social Media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or your favorite mix of SM sites.
  7. Create a YouTube channel and post videos about your services or answering client questions.
  8. Link your videos back to your website.
  9. Be active on social media to support customers, answer questions and increase brand awareness.
  10. Connect your website to your social media presence.

If your website is not built on a content management system, look into converting your site to one that is. Then, you can become a master web gardener.


Posted in SEO

Voice Search, Longer Queries, Locality, Drive Search and SEO

Mobile search drives voice queries which impacts your SEO

In 1966 on an episode of Star Trek titled, “The Conscience of the King,” Captain Kirk uses voice search to locate information about Anton Karidian, a protagonist in the episode. Kirk’s manner of search is, like most things Star Trek, predictive of future technology. Star Trek was also the source of the personal communicator which, itself, was an evolution of a two-way radio, commonly used in the 1960s. Today’s personal communicator is the mobile device which performs both voice search and mobile calls. We keep our mobile devices with us most of the day, using them in lieu of desktops. 

Mobile search dominates

We already know that the great majority of searches in the United States are conducted  using mobile devices. It’s been said that perhaps 60% voice searches are done on mobile devices. As reported in Search Engine Land, “A recent report from Hitwise (registration required) argues that in the US mobile search is roughly 58 percent of overall search query volume.” With the increasing use of mobile devices, we also have the increase of voice commands which are common. These days people are searching the web with mobile devices and they are doing so using verbal (voice) search to either Siri or Google.

According to Search Engine Land, “The range of virtual assistants, such as Siri, Cortana, Google Voice Search/Now, Viv, Amazon Alexa, and now, Google Home, are collectively training people to search using their voices and to become more “conversational” with search and mobile devices.” Not only are voice searches being conducted more frequently, they are longer containing more characters than typically used by users performing a search using a desktop. The ease and convenience of voice search is driving us to ask more detailed questions.

How does voice search affect your SEO?

When people voice search, they use natural speech rather than boolean search terms or simple keywords. Years ago, people seeking a sushi restaurant, would have searched for “sushi restaurants in Charleston, SC.” Today, all we need to do is ask Siri or Google for “sushi restaurants near me.” The search engine returns a map, populated with pins locating restaurants serving sushi. This indexing of GPS enabled data from the phone, combined with local restaurant types gathered from both Google My Business and website indexing, drives a powerful result and you get the sushi you crave quickly.

SEO, content and website development

Google’s stated aim is to provide users the information they desire immediately. To this end they have developed all the tools which allow users to reach their goals quickly. These include the use of structured data and snippets, as well as latent semantic indexing (LSI) [Click to read our article on LSI] which analyzes the words on a page and immediately recognizes the corollary phrases and words relevant to your search.

What actions can you take to make certain that your content is helpful, useful and findable to search engines?

As you develop content for your website, recognize that you must now structure your content to contain key phrases. Key phrases are those which are used in spoken searches. For example, someone searching for specialized insurance for their automobile, might voice search using the query, “I want to buy automobile insurance for a collectible car from 1960.” Optimizing your content (if you are a firm selling such insurance) with a post or page or even a subhead marked up as a headline [H1, H2, H3, H4], with a question or statement: “Why is it important to purchase insurance specifically for collectible cars” will help your website visitors find you more quickly via voice search. Questions, statements and phrases emulating what a user will input during a voice search enhances your content’s attractiveness and usability for site visitors. Phrases are indexed and used to provide the answers you see in search results as seen in the image below.  PRO-TIP: Extend this analogy to your industry, services, or products in order to help build helpful content (which can be text, images, and/or videos) for your website visitors.

An example of structured data results from a Google voice Search

Add your business to Google My Business

Adding your firm to Google My Business provides local searchers the relevant information they need [Click to learn how it works]. Not only that, it allows you to see when, how, and what searchers interact with. The tool allows you to consolidate location, product, and frequently requested data into a single place and you are able to manage reviews right in the dashboard of Google My Business. It’s critical to add images that are helpful. These images are shown to users performing map searches. You can allow your prospective customers to see inside your business, see product photos, and view images of your key personnel. You can update your listing anytime you need to with seasonal hours, and up-to-the-minute information. You have the power to affect how your business is listed by Google. Take advantage of it.

Use a structured data markup tools in your website

If your website is based on self-hosted WordPress, you can add tools such as Yoast SEO, and Local SEO from Yoast to enhance your content and seamlessly and easily insert the right metadata to signal to search engines where your business is located. If you prefer to include structured markup yourself, Google has a tool to give you the assistance marking up your metadata. If you have already added the right markup to your site you can also test it using Google tools. Click to test your website’s structured data markup.

If this information is more technical than you care to digest, call us. We’ll be glad to have a look at your website and provide you with a few ideas about how we can help make certain that your website is properly indexed, and helpful to your site’s visitors.