When was the last time you stood in line, sat on the bus, or had dinner at a restaurant and didn’t see a single person using their phone? These days, it seems like every American has a smartphone and is using it on a near-constant basis.
Because the use of mobile devices has increased so much over the last decade, marketers and search engines alike are having to make changes in their priorities. Now that users are more likely to visit a mobile site over a desktop site, it’s key to make sure that the user experience remains excellent across all devices.
The rise of the mobile-friendly site isn’t all that’s changed due to the mobile revolution, however. Now, the quality and responsiveness of your mobile-friendly site may be affecting your ranking on Google and is shifting priorities in the world of SEO.
So what does this mean for medical marketing? How can you build and maintain your position in search results to attract potential patients in the mobile world? Here’s what you need to know about mobile-first indexing—and how it will affect your website and marketing strategy.
The Basics of Mobile-First Indexing
In March of 2018, Google announced that it was beginning the process of moving over to “mobile-first” indexing. Indexing is how the search engine finds and organizes web pages. Once sites are indexed, Google’s algorithms evaluate the webpages in order to assign them a ranking in the search results. The mobile-first indexing shift does not change the way websites are ranked, but it does combine the mobile and desktop sites into one index and evaluates the mobile site first.
Now, mobile or responsive design is crawled and indexed first, with the desktop site only included if no mobile-friendly option exists. With mobile-first indexing, your mobile site actually becomes your primary site in the eyes of Google.
It’s important to emphasize that mobile-first indexing doesn’t inherently affect individual rankings in Google search results. There are many different factors that go into rankings, including all the standard SEO factors like keywords, alt attributes, metadata, structured data, and site speed. However, these are now evaluated on the mobile site first, meaning website owners need to ensure that both versions of the page are optimized and attractive to users. With the new indexing system defaulting to the mobile version, the Google search console may very well penalize those with no mobile-friendly options or with poor mobile sites.
A Shift in Priorities
Although it might be easier to navigate a desktop site, the reality is that most people prefer the convenience of using their smartphone to browse the web. Essentially, mobile-first indexing is just another step in Google’s efforts to cater to the needs of today’s consumers. These days, mobile users are performing more searches than desktop users, a trend that is likely to continue as our mobile devices become more and more advanced and intuitive.
Mobile-First SEO for Plastic Surgeons
So what does the shift to mobile-first mean for plastic surgeons trying to rank in Google? Well, that depends. If you already have a responsive design, very little should change in your rankings, because the content on your desktop and mobile sites will be the same. If you have a separate, pared-down mobile site or no mobile site at all, you could run into some issues in your SEO rankings. If you haven’t been focusing on mobile to bring in prospective patients, now may be the time to think about optimizing for mobile users in the future.
Making Changes for the Future
Although the mobile-first rollout is well underway, that doesn’t mean you should ignore desktop site users and focus solely on mobile. Your website design matters, and it should look just as good on the big screen as on a smartphone.
One of the easiest ways to streamline your SEO and marketing efforts is to ensure that you have a responsive design that uses dynamic serving in order to show users the correct version of your website depending on the device they happen to be using. These days, many design tools allow website designers to view the site in the desktop and mobile version, to ensure that the user experience is just as good from any device.
Think Beyond SEO
When focusing on mobile, it’s important to remember that your website is intended for real people. You don’t want potential patients to come to your site because it’s highly ranked only to find that it’s unattractive, difficult to read, or inconvenient to use on a mobile site. You want it to be mobile-effective.
Consider your design and content as well as the other factors affecting your SEO rankings. Your copy should use shorter paragraphs and sentences that are easy to read. You’ll also want to make sure that any visuals look good on every device type. It’s all about the user experience in the end. People who like your site will be more likely to book a consultation in the end.
Even if your mobile site isn’t up to mobile-first indexing, there’s no need to panic. You just have to make some changes and you should start to regain your position in the search results. Remember that everything Google does in changing the search criteria is in the interest of better serving consumers and bringing them the answers they’re looking for. If you approach medical marketing in this way, instead of seeing it as a system to beat, you’ll be better prepared for any of the inevitable future updates.