Google is Calling: Why Optimizing All Sites for Mobile is a Necessity in 2021
Starting in March of this year, Google declared open season on desktop websites. As the de facto ruler of internet search, they decreed that the only websites worth ranking are mobile sites. Unfortunately, this means if your website isn’t optimized for mobile search, no one will find it. Lucky for you, EyeCarePro has a few tips and tricks you can use to have your website mobile-friendly in no time.
It’s Not a Recommendation, It’s a Requirement
In a move many saw as thumbing their noses at desktop users everywhere, Google decided that from March 2021 forward, they were dropping all desktop-only sites from the search index. This means that Google has started judging all web content based on how it primarily looks and functions on mobile devices.
Every website indexed by Google is now crawled by the smartphone Googlebot before being run through the algorithm to determine search ranking. If your website doesn’t work well on mobile devices, or if you’re still designing your websites for desktop and don’t have a mobile version of your site, get used to empty waiting rooms because none of your patients will be able to find your practice online.
Don’t believe us? Here’s what John Mueller, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst had to say about it: “We will drop everything that’s only on the desktop site. We will essentially ignore that.” That’s pretty definitive. Google has decided to give everyone an ultimatum: Either make your website mobile-first, or you can kiss all organic traffic goodbye.
However, it's not all doom and gloom. An update from John Mueller last month indicated the Google team was still moving websites over to the mobile index. So if you act now, there's still time to get everything in order before they officially flip the switch.
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Living in a Mobile World
First, let's take a moment to figure out what this all means. This latest update makes it so the only content Google will be indexing comes from the mobile version of your website. So whenever someone searches for eye care practices, Google will only be looking at your mobile site to see if your content matches their query. When Google says all sites will be indexed as mobile sites, they simply mean their web crawlers will be hunting for mobile content. There's a caveat to this. Technically, a site with content that can be read by the smartphone Googlebot can still be indexed, even if the website doesn't function well on mobile devices. But there's a big difference between being indexed, and being seen by patients. Doing the bare minimum still means you'll rank near the bottom.
As the popularity of smartphones and tablets have increased, so has the use of mobile search. In a previous article, we discussed that the vast majority of optometry searches are performed using mobile devices. This is especially important when you factor in that a good chunk of these searches are done while someone is driving around looking for a particular service in their area.
So let’s be real for a second. Fully optimizing your website for mobile search is just good business. The best way to attract patients is to meet them where they are, and your patients are increasingly on mobile-based platforms. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile devices, your practice won’t be competitive. That’s the hard truth.
4 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Mobile
Now that we all agree that as an eye care professional you need to be making all your web content mobile-first, let’s get down to brass tacks. When you clicked on this article, you were most likely looking for a great guide on how you can fix up your website. So without further ado, welcome to EyeCarePro’s Mobile Optimization Boot Camp.
1. Simple Designs Lower Bounce Rates
Attention spans are short. Anything that distracts from the main reason a user chose to visit your site is a great way to frustrate them into seeking answers elsewhere. A streamlined design can help keep your bounce rates low and your engagement high.
There’s a couple things you need to keep in mind when designing a mobile friendly page: Screen size and above-the-fold content.
Mobile devices have smaller screens than desktops. They also have different dimensions, leading to different page margins and lengths. This means that when content designed for desktop is pushed to mobile devices, page elements tend to shift around a lot. This can be very bad if design elements end up either out of order or overlapping each other.
This also impacts above-the-fold content. Above-the-fold is a term used by web developers to describe the area of a web page a user sees before scrolling. It’s essentially your chance to make a great first impression. Ideally, this is where you would put the page’s most important information so users see it immediately. But if you're not designing your pages for mobile, your above-the-fold content might wind up being a portion of an image that wasn’t sized correctly, or a form without any context to convince people to fill it out. If users can’t find what they’re looking for right away, they usually don’t stick around.
To solve both of these design issues, you’ll want to switch over to mobile templates using responsive designs. A responsive design automatically adjusts the sizing and positioning of your page components to match the user’s device. This makes it far less likely that potential patients will bounce from your site, and far more likely that they’ll stick around to hear what you have to say.
Additionally, you want the content on your mobile website to match the content on your desktop website, otherwise you could risk drops in traffic and other nasty surprises. Since all indexed content comes from the mobile site now instead of the desktop site, you should design the website for mobile users, and then check that it functions well on desktop.
2. Clamp Down on Pop Ups
We’ve all been there. You’re minding your own business, reading an interesting article when suddenly, the content darkens and an obnoxious overlay seizes your entire screen, asking you to subscribe or buy something.
We’re pretty sure it’s safe to assume pop ups are universally hated all across the world wide web. Getting a sudden, unwanted, intrusive sales pitch feels like you’re being ambushed, and in many cases, causes users to bounce. But higher bounce rates aren’t the only damage they cause. Pop ups slow down page load speeds, which is another key component of mobile optimization (see below). Additionally, interstitial pop ups have been part of Google’s rogues gallery of bad SEO practices since 2017. If you’re still using them, chances are you're sabotaging your search rankings.
It’s in your best interest to ditch pop ups. Instead, try building the content into your page as a static element in an unobtrusive way.
3. Get Fast, or Be Furious
In our previous post on DIY web traffic strategies, we discussed how another of Google’s recent search ranking factor changes, Core Web Vitals, made waves. Faster loading pages rank higher now. And when Google has admitted that even a one second delay in load time can drop conversions by 20 percent, there’s more than one reason to want your pages to load at warp speed.
First, you’ll want to diagnose the problem. Head on over to Google’s Page Speed Insights and enter your URL to get an idea of what kinds of problems your site is facing.
Some of the more common problems involve images and third-party plugins on your website. To deal with images, either compress them or set up your page to lazy load images as a user scrolls instead of all at once at the beginning. Third-party plugins are a bit trickier. Page Speed Insights can point you in the right direction if there’s a problem, but you’ll have to troubleshoot the plugins yourself. Ask yourself if you really need it. If the answer is yes, shop around and see if you can find a less resource-intensive alternative. More often than not, you’ll be able to find a work around for a sluggish plugin.
Another good practice is to enable HTTP caching on your site. This allows a user’s browser to save vital details about the page, creating a shortcut that allows them to load the page even faster on all subsequent visits to your site.
Finally, avoid video and animations if it can be helped. GIFs and videos take a long time to load and slow down pages considerably. If you need to use a video, do NOT use a video player to do it. Embed the video file directly onto your site.
4. There’s No Substitute for Good Ol’ QA Testing
If you do nothing else, you should at the very least get in the habit of testing your content before it goes out. It costs nothing, takes very little effort and can be done in a few moments.
Most content platforms will have a function where you can view a webpage as different devices. For example, HubSpot allows you to view your content as it would appear on mobile. Always make sure to test your content on a smartphone, tablet and desktop computer before making it live. This allows you to spot mistakes the responsive page may not have compensated for, and adjust accordingly.
Mobile optimization really comes down to user experience, so the more things you can do to make answering a user’s search query quick and intuitive, the better.
Need Help Going Mobile?
EyeCarePro switched over to mobile-first web designs years ago. We knew mobile sites would be the only game in town eventually, so we decided to get ahead of the curve. Now we have more experience in mobile optimized optometry websites than anyone else in the industry.
So if you’re looking for a beautifully crafted, mobile-first optometry website, EyeCarePro has just what you need. But we won’t stop there. Our goal is to help your practice get more patients. That’s why we offer web content designed to get traffic to your site and professional SEO to help it get the visibility it deserves to pull in the new patients you need.
We do it all, from creation to maintenance. We’ll even host your website for you so you can devote your entire attention to your practice and patients.
Give us a call at 888.737.5494 today, and let’s mobilize your website!