Why Web Writers Should Care about Google’s Mobile First

Person reviewing mobile device and laptop

Sometimes, web writing opportunities arise from the most unlikely places. Take Google’s recent algorithm change, for example …

In March 2021, Google started indexing websites based on the mobile version of each site. They call it Mobile First.

This means they only use the mobile version of a web page to determine its ranking in a Google search.

Google doesn’t even look at the desktop version of a web page anymore. They only care about the user experience (UX) on a mobile device.

Mobile First is just one part of Google’s long-term push to prioritize websites which perform best on mobile devices.

But why should web writers care about all this technical stuff? Well, by keeping up with Google’s algorithm changes, we see new opportunities open up for web writers. Mobile First is a great example of this.

There are two parts to Google’s Mobile First update:

  1. the technical changes, and
  2. the content.

Let’s leave the technical changes to the experts. We’re more interested in the content …

The User Comes First

Mobile First is all about the user experience on a mobile. Your job as a web writer is to make the copy clear to read on a mobile screen.

There’s way less real estate on a mobile device compared to a desktop. The copy needs to “fit” these smaller mobile screens … meaning shorter headlines, shorter sentences, and shorter paragraphs.

Your job is to make the user’s life easy. After all, the user comes first.

You might be wondering where the opportunity is for you with Mobile First, since it’s already rolled out. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed the boat!

There are still millions of web pages which need to be optimized for a mobile device. And that means a massive opportunity for you as a web writer.

Businesses need you to go through their existing content and optimize it for mobile devices. Why? Because if their web pages aren’t optimized, they’re being penalized by Google.

That means missed sales and less income.

We’ll take a closer look at the top five important changes every website needs to be optimized for Mobile First.

And every one of these is an opportunity for you as a web writer. These are changes you can easily make and get paid well to make them.

1. Write Short Headlines

The aim of a headline is to get people to read the copy below it.

People tend to read only the first three and the last three words of a headline. So the ideal length of a headline is six words.

This can be difficult. However, make sure the first three words and the last three words have a powerful impact. This is especially true on a mobile device … mobile users tend to skim content more so than desktop users.

And a long headline looks cumbersome on a mobile device. It’ll appear as a wall of bold text, meaning a user is less likely to read it. Worse still, it can disappear below the fold (below the bottom of the screen).

Sometimes it’s simply not possible to write an effective headline using only six words. But if you keep these three tips in mind:

  1. Make every word count.
  2. Make sure the first three words make an impact.
  3. Make sure the last three words make an impact.

 … then you’ll be well on the way to writing effective Mobile First headlines.

2. Use Short Sentences and Short Paragraphs

Have you ever opened a web page on a mobile device and been confronted with a screen full of text?

That’s a poor user experience (UX). Instead,

  • Break long sentences into shorter sentences.
  • Break long paragraphs into shorter paragraphs.
  • Break paragraphs into bullet points (see what I did here? 😊).

This type of content is easier to consume and easier to follow.

And as with desktops, make sure paragraph lengths vary. You don’t want a user to see monotonous chunks of identical text.

Also think about how you could use images, infographics, or videos to help explain the subject matter. By including these other media types, the content is easier to consume … it breaks the copy down into smaller chunks.

You could even consider occasionally using infographics and videos instead of copy, if appropriate. Replace long reams of copy with these types of visual media.

3. Break Up Copy with Subheadings

Subheadings help to break the copy into discrete chunks. They also help the skimmers to find what they need more quickly.

And the search engines love subheadings. They add context to articles, so the search engines can more easily understand what the web page is about.

Subheadings play another role. They’re a great place to include additional keyphrases related to the content.

For example, imagine if “Why are subheadings useful?” was a popular keyphrase. I could replace the above subheading with “Why Are Subheadings Useful?”

Then the search engines would be more likely to rank this web page for the term “Why are subheadings useful?”

And finally, subheadings allow users to easily pick up where they left off later. This is an important factor for mobile users, who tend to be more distracted than desktop users.

4. Where Are the Contact Details?

The headers, menus, and navigation bars are very different on a mobile compared to a desktop.

On a desktop, you have plenty of room to include the business name, address, and phone number. But sometimes this information disappears on the mobile version. So you’ll need to add this information.

5. Where Am I?

Speaking of information … when a user lands on your client’s homepage, do they immediately know who your client is and how they can help the user? What works on a desktop may not work on a mobile.

For example, many websites have scrolling image galleries at the top of the homepage. This doesn’t translate well to mobile.

Think about using a strong headline and perhaps a subheading instead. You want the user to know who you are and how you can help them.

How You Can Benefit from Mobile First

In summary, businesses need you to help them. Your job is to make sure their websites are optimized for Mobile First.

They need you to go through their content and …

  1. Rewrite headlines so they are short and eye-catching to a mobile user.
  2. Break long sentences and paragraphs down so they’re easy to read on mobile devices. This could include substituting videos and infographics in place of long chunks of text.
  3. Add more subheadings to content. This allows readers to pick up where they left off and to skim through the content to find what they’re looking for.
  4. Include the business contact details, which may no longer show on a mobile device.
  5. Make sure the user immediately knows what the business does and how they can help the user.

Just one or two clients with large websites could keep you busy for many months. You might agree to start with the main pages, then update say 10 pages every month.

This is an easy way to get your foot in the door with clients. The risk is low to them … you can start by updating a few pages and they can easily see via Google Analytics whether those pages climb in the Google rankings.

How do you get started?

Make a list of companies in your niche. Check their websites on a mobile device. Are they easy to read, does the content flow smoothly on a mobile device? Or is it cluttered and difficult to read?

If it’s difficult to read, approach these companies. Explain how you can help them and why Mobile First is so important.

Another way is to link up with agencies. They find the work then hire you to do it for them.

And finally, you can contact web builders directly. Most web builders include a link to their website in the footer (the bar at the bottom of the web page). Click on this link and contact them directly. They can hire you as their web writer.

Wrapping Up

Mobile First is a fantastic opportunity for web writers. No business wants to be left behind. But they don’t know what to do.

You can help them.

Millions of business websites around the world aren’t optimized for Mobile First … not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t know how.

And that’s your big opportunity to help them.

Position yourself as the expert who can help them, and you’ll be booked solid well into the future.

Do you have any questions about Mobile First and getting started as a web writer? Share with us so we can help.

The Digital Copywriter's Handbook

The Digital Copywriter's Handbook

Learn how to become an in-demand online copywriter for companies big and small. Online copywriting expert Nick Usborne shows you how to write web copy that converts. Learn More »

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Published: August 3, 2021

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