Google’s Mobile-First Index is coming. Is your WordPress website ready?

by James

January 18, 2018

This has been a long time coming, and since mobile devices now equate to 52.8% of all web traffic compared to 43.26% Desktop traffic; it’s now time your website started thinking mobile first. If it doesn’t, Google will be soon dropping your website from their search results.

What Is The Mobile-First Index?

Google’s mobile-first index is an evolution of their search results. They are now beginning to prioritise mobile devices over desktop.

This means that your website, and all its information, needs to be as easily accessible for mobile devices, as it is for desktops.

If your website isn’t ‘responsive’ or ‘mobile ready’ then your website won’t appear in Google search results, meaning that any local or National ranking that you’ve obtained over the years, will be wasted.

What is a Responsive website?

The term responsive means that when your website is being displayed on a device (desktop / tablet / mobile) that is changes its appearance to best accommodate content on that particular screen size.

This includes how the navigation and many of the features within the website will function on each device.

The image 1.1 below shows a website homepage in 5 different breakpoints (screen sizes) You can see how when the visual decreases in size that the navigation changes into what is known as the ‘burger’ menu.

Making a website responsive or mobile ready is not just to serve a version of the website that mobile devices can easily view, but it is to provide a consistent experience for the user, through any device they wish to use.

Users don’t want restricted or reduced content, they want everything the desktop has to offer, yet via their mobile – responsive websites provide that option.

How do i know my website is mobile-ready / responsive?

If your website or WordPress theme is only a couple of years old, then chances are it will already be responsive. Most developers now use responsive frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap which provides the functionality needed to serve your website on different screen sizes / devices.

However if you wanted to test your website to see how mobile friendly it is; you can use Google’s mobile friendly test here.

Alternatively, check your website on your mobile and compare it to the desktop counterpart.

Are you required to pinch and zoom to access content on your mobile? If so then your website may not be responsive.

Dedicated Mobile Websites

If your website on your mobile is different to your desktop, then you could have a dedicated mobile website. These were great for helping to provide priority content to mobile users when phone internet speeds were quite low, however with the introduction of 4G – we don’t need to be as cautious.

If you do have a dedicated mobile website this will become the website that Google will index, so bare in mind that if it does have very limited content, then any previous search ranking your desktop website has generated will be lost.

When will the Mobile-First Index Happen?

There is no set date provided by Google as to when the mobile-first index will come into place. All we know at present is that is will be happening in 2018 and it is most likely to happen in the first half of the year.

What will happen if I don’t make my website responsive?

If your website relies on Google organic search for leads and traffic then your website will be dropped from the search results. Meaning any page ranking you have fought to achieve, will be lost.

If you use paid search for obtaining traffic, this we understand, will still serve your website, but Google may increase the amount you are paying for a click, or decrease your page quality score due to the visitor’s experience using the website.

If My Site Is Not Responsive Will I Need a New Website?

Due to the rise of responsive frameworks it has become far easier (and less costly) to retrofit a framework into existing websites whether static or WordPress based. Meaning you may not need to have a completely new website.

Although this approach does ‘tick’ the box for Google, it is not necessarily the best approach in regards to content focus.

Depending on how the framework is introduced, a majority of the time; items and objects simply stack upon one and other, providing a longer scrolling experience for the user.

By thinking from the ground up, or taking more care, you can focus on key content areas that can provide a different user experience that is better served for mobile; yet displaying the same content.

See the image 2.1 below. On a desktop an image carousel displays 3 content items with a left and right arrow activation to allow the carousel to slide.

See image 2.2 below, you can see the same content from the desktop, yet the items are stacked on top of one another, creating a longer scrolling experience.

See image 2.3 below, you can once again see the same content, yet this time we’ve focused on the user’s device and served a mobile carousel. By displaying a snippet of the next item, making the user aware that there is more content to be browsed.

This functionality will allow the user to swipe the item in the same way as clicking the arrows on desktop.

We also achieve a far shorter scrolling user experience.

It all comes down to device and familiarity. Apple use a similar approach on the AppStore, so users understand how this is to function. By adopting this on websites, it becomes intuitive to users and we achieve a greater user experience, without reducing the amount of content we serve. (Meaning Google still loves your website).

What is the cost of integrating a responsive framework into your website?

We are providing a free audit to check to see if your website can have a framework integrated. Give us a call us on 020 3355 8747 and we can begin reviewing your website.

On a non – responsive WordPress website, the typical cost of implementing Bootstrap 4 is from £1,300+vat.*

We can provide a more tailored plan, depending on what functionality your website uses and how this will work on mobile devices.

Will I need to do anything if my site is already responsive?

No, but we’d advise on reviewing your website content and making sure that you are thinking of mobile users first.

It’s important that the website functions correctly, but what about the content and story?

Take a look how your website is viewed on your phone, and ask yourself “do I have to scroll to view content, or important calls to action? – or are items immediately visible to me?”

Most WordPress themes provide the responsive framework however it is still required for the developer or website owner to manage the content and user experience.

If there’s a journey you want your users to take, for example ‘learn about you > find out what you do > get in touch’ then ensure that this journey is as easy on mobile as it is on desktop. Ensure that actionable items are clear and easy to tap.

As a rule of thumb, you want to limit the number of clicks a user takes on any particular journey on your website. The more clicks they have to make, to get to where they need to go; the less chance they will get there.


Although we don’t yet know the exact date for the switchover, it is wise to start planning ahead.

Businesses Without Responsive Website

If your business relies on search results for leads then this will be a vital and yet positive upgrade for your website. Begin looking at either the short-term retrofit option for speed, and maybe start allocating the time to plan a rebuild at a later date.

Businesses with a Dedicated Mobile Website

You should start the same process, potentially integrating a responsive framework (retrofit option) into your desktop website as a short-term fix. Whilst beginning the planning stages of a potential rebuild at a later date.

Businesses Already With A Responsive Website

Having a seamless website experience on any device is quickly becoming an expectation from users, by already having a responsive website you are indeed ticking the box for the Mobile-First Index. However we’d advise on evaluating the content that is being served and map out and test your customer journeys – this will only improve the user experience on your website.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

Remember set short and long term goals. Providing the quick fix solution is ideal for today, but continue to build for tomorrow.

You may find it’s time for a new website anyway. On average our clients refresh their website every 3-5 years; if that’s a benchmark to work towards. Much can change in this time, functionality, internet speeds and new devices. We WILL no doubt see even further changes 4 years from now.

As long as the foundations are right, you can constantly evolve a website over time, therefore you haven’t got it get it 100% perfect at the time of launch, you can deliver it in controlled phases – just food for thought.

Feel free to get in touch for a Free responsive audit, where we can check to see if we can retrofit a responsive framework into your website. Or alternatively speak to us about a User Experience review, we can provide a summary of things you can improve on your website to help increase conversions or provide a better mobile user experience.

*Prices correct at time of publication


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