Google recently announced a significant change to their index that could mean big things for dentists. Mobile-friendly websites are no longer a feature; they are now a requirement. Responsive designs are paramount because mobile users, especially those looking for local businesses like a dental practice, have surpassed the number of desktop users.
Few things will make a mobile user back out of your website faster than a website that wasn’t designed to load on their device. Sites designed purely with 16- to 30-inch monitors in mind are a lot different in layout from something made for a smartphone.
But it’s gone beyond creating a great user experience. Google has been using mobile-readiness as a ranking signal for three years now, so any tech-savvy dentist should already be on top of it. However, last month, Google announced its move to mobile-first indexing.
What Is Mobile-First Indexing?
What does this mean for dentists? If your website isn’t designed with mobile in mind from the ground up, be prepared to lose your place in search engine results pages (SERPs). Google will create and rank listings based on the mobile version of the site, even if the user is on a desktop.
Above all else, mobile-first indexing is a nod to the changes in how we use the internet. Before now, Google’s bots that crawl, rank, and index websites used the desktop as the standard, default version. Since we now use mobile devices more than desktop devices, that “default” no longer makes sense. Mobile-first indexing means that now Google will be using the mobile, responsive version of a website as the new default, thus better helping the majority of people to find the content they are looking for.
Sites that aren’t mobile-friendly still get indexed. It’s better to have a flexible, responsive design rather than separate versions for mobile and desktop users. If you’re still kicking it old school and your site isn’t mobile-friendly, your content won’t rank as well. That was already the case, but now it’s even more so.
Mobile-first indexing isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. Google is rolling the experiment out slowly, meaning that there are currently two indexes for SERPs—one for mobile, one for desktop. Users will gradually be added to mobile-first indexing, though there is no way to know who is using which index.
You can bet it won’t be too long before the mobile index is the only index, assuming there aren’t any problems that require a reversion back to the old solution.
Making Your Website Mobile-Friendly
If you haven’t already, it’s time to make your site friendly to mobile devices. There are a few ways you can go about this:
- Create a mobile version of your site.
The “Band-Aid” approach takes your desktop site and creates a second site from it that is responsive. This isn’t the best long-term solution, and you’ll often have less content and information available on the mobile version of your site, but it will, at least, get you compliant. Here are a few tools that will help you make the mobile version of your site fast.
- Use a mobile plug-in.
If you’ve used convenient website platforms like WordPress or Squarespace to design your desktop site, plugins like JetPack and WPtouch are very easy ways to update your site for mobile access. Look here for your website development software, and Google will help you find the right plug-in.
- Build from the ground up.
The above steps are simply patches for your problem. To provide the best user experience (and the best site for Google to crawl), start with a new responsive design. It’s the best way to provide the most consistent experience of your website, whether users are on desktops, tablets, or smartphones.
Dentists Need Mobile, Responsive Sites
The gap between the number of users on handheld devices and the number of users on desktop computers has been widening for the last few years, and there’s no indication that is going to slow down. If your website doesn’t load properly fast, your dental prospect will likely click away from your site and onto a nearby competitor’s.
How does your dental website stack up? You can use this free development tool to test the performance of your site on multiple devices.