What Google’s Mobile-First Index means for financial services providers

They announced it in March 2015. Confirmed in 2016. Repeated in 2017. Officialised on 26 March 2018.

What exactly?

Google has announced they have officially begun to roll out the mobile first index beyond the initial testing phase and they have started migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing.

Quoting Google: “Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.”


What does it mean?

Google began making the change to mobile first after more than 50% of searches were done on mobile devices, and with a growing number of sites offering truncated content to mobile users, leaving those searchers frustrated when the page they click through to didn’t actually contain the content expected.

The mobile first index now sees Google crawl, index and rank a page based on the mobile version of the page instead of the desktop version. Essentially, Google will try to give priority to the results that follow the best practices of indexing.

Even if Google urges sites that are not in this initial wave not to panic, they do however encourage webmasters to make their content mobile-friendly. Quoting Google: “We do evaluate all content in our index — whether it is desktop or mobile — to determine how mobile-friendly it is. Since 2015, this measure can help mobile-friendly content perform better for those who are searching on mobile.”

Furthermore, Google states “Related, we recently announced that beginning in July 2018, content that is slow-loading may perform less well for both desktop and mobile searchers.” This makes good sense. Users want to be able to find answers to their questions as fast as possible — studies show that users really care about the speed of a page. Speed is key – especially for mobile content – but it will become even more important later this year, when Google will begin to take mobile page speed into account in their algorithms, instead of only the current desktop speed.


What’s that got to do with a financial services provider?

All industries are affected by Google’s changes, including the financial industry, and the move to a mobile-first index marks a clear recognition of the move away from desktop usage. More than 50% of searches (in all 63 countries covered by Google’s Barometer study) are on mobile and this number continues to grow. No one in the financial industry can really afford the luxury of losing such a large market slice!

There are always areas a financial services provider can improve upon, in order to offer returning and new users top quality mobile performance and maximise the benefits their website brings to their business.


What steps should financial services providers take to be prepared?

  • First of all, read through the Google Webmaster Blog Post: no one can ever have too much information on a subject so let’s have a read through the post that Google released to get some information straight from the source.
  • Check the current site’s mobile friendliness, evaluate any usability issues and follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing.
  • Improve loading speeds: a good page load times across all devices is always important, but especially so for mobile users. If a website doesn’t load in less than two seconds, it’s time to make some changes.
  • Go responsive yesterday: whilst this may involve additional investment, it is time to move any site to responsive design. Having one URL that adapts to all devices is best for users, search engines, and the folks who are maintaining the company website.
  • Understand the mobile audience and write content for them: knowing or anticipating who will be reading a specific content is key to effective writing. Of course, there’s no need to add any further comment.

Mobile traffic isn’t the wave of the future; it’s already here, and it’s here to stay. Google’s slow rollout of mobile-first indexing means that Google will index mobile sites first instead of desktop sites.

While this simple change might not seem grand, it is. If your site isn’t responsive, fast, and ready to roll, your rankings will suffer greatly. While you may not see effects for a while, it’s always better to be ahead of the curve than struggling to catch up.

Abacus is ready. Over to you now… How are you doing?


Written by Marta Bellamoli, Marketing Co-ordinator