What Does Mobile-First Indexing Mean?
If you are a business owner with an online presence, this week’s announcement by Google could affect your site’s ranking. Google officially started rolling out their mobile-first indexing algorithm this week, but what exactly does this mean?
Some of the questions from business owners include “What do I need to change?” or “Is mobile-friendly is good enough?” Google updates tend to create a lot of apprehension among the business world, and the online marketing sector may be especially perplexed by what to do next.
The next post offers an explanation of what the new update might entail:
Mobile-first indexing is exactly what it sounds like. It just means that the mobile version of your website becomes the starting point for what Google includes in their index, and the baseline for how they determine rankings. If you monitor crawlbot traffic to your site, you may see an increase in traffic from Smartphone Googlebot, and the cached versions of pages will usually be the mobile version of the page.
It’s called “mobile-first” because it’s not a mobile-only index: for instance, if a site doesn’t have a mobile-friendly version, the desktop site can still be included in the index. But the lack of a mobile-friendly experience could impact negatively on the rankings of that site, and a site with a better mobile experience would potentially receive a rankings boost even for searchers on a desktop.
What Lead Up To Mobile-First Indexing?
This plan of mobile taking the top spot for the search engine crawlers has been in the works for quite some time. Because of the increasing popularity of mobile devices, Google announced late 2016 that they would be slowing rolling out their mobile-first strategy.
It was really no big surprise considering that more than a year earlier, Google announced that having a mobile-friendly site was pretty much mandatory. It was a significant enough change that some people referred to it as mobilegeddon or mobilepocalypse. Google even provided a mobile-friendly test tool to see if your site passed the mustard.
So when they announced in 2016 that the traditional desktop computer was being knocked off its pedestal and replaced by mobile, it was no big revelation. What is a little curious is how long it took, as Google has been talking about this update since mobile devices surpassed desktop usage back in 2014.
In this video from November 2016 by Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable, he talks about how Google said they were already experimenting with this feature and that it would launch in the next few months. Barry discusses the proposed change first, which lasts until around the 4-minute mark, and then he provides other updates by Big G:
Using a Mobile Responsive Design
It is obviously a big update since it took until March of 2018 to fully establish the change. Going forward, Google will consider the mobile rendition of your website as the primary version.
Previously, the desktop site was prioritized as the most comprehensive version of the two. It had the majority of the content, structured data markup, and backlinks that were created by SEO companies or marketing teams (source: The Digital Swarm).
With the onset of mobile-first indexing, your site content will see a significant increase in crawls by the Smartphone Googlebot with the search results reflecting snippets from content on the mobile version. Here are some extra tips from the search engine giant:
As we said, sites that make use of responsive web design and correctly implement dynamic serving (that include all of the desktop content and markup) generally don’t have to do anything. Here are some extra tips that help ensure a site is ready for mobile-first indexing:
Make sure the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos – in the usual crawlable and indexable formats. Structured data is important for indexing and search features that users love: it should be both on the mobile and desktop version of the site. Ensure URLs within the structured data are updated to the mobile version on the mobile pages. Metadata should be present on both versions of the site. It provides hints about the content on a page for indexing and serving. For example, make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of all pages on the site. No changes are necessary for interlinking with separate mobile URLs (m.-dot sites). For sites using separate mobile URLs, keep the existing link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between these versions. Check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs. When using link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization, link between mobile and desktop URLs separately. Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there. Ensure the servers hosting the site have enough capacity to handle potentially increased crawl rate. This doesn’t affect sites that use responsive web design and dynamic serving, only sites where the mobile version is on a separate host, such as m.example.com. We will be evaluating sites independently on their readiness for mobile-first indexing based on the above criteria and transitioning them when ready. This process has already started for a handful of sites and is closely being monitored by the search team.
See the full post here: Getting Your Site Ready For Mobile Indexing
When you read their pointers in the above paragraph, most business owners might have a little trouble understanding the lingo, as it directed toward webmasters. To be sure your site fits the “mobile bill”, you might want to contact an SEO company in Denver to recruit their expertise in getting your site set up for mobile users as your primary target.