Let’s take a trip down memory lane to November 4th 2016 when this article got published on the ‘Google Webmaster Central Blog’. On that day, Google announced it would change the indexing and ranking of websites to better help mobile users find what they are looking for when conducting a Google search. Google took this shift in the way they’re indexing websites very seriously and decided to carefully experiment on a small scale before rolling mobile-first indexing out at larger scale. Months of testing turned into one and a half years of testing but eventually the time has come for Google to declare that it is rolling out mobile-first indexing on a broader scale. This article covers some of the most asked questions about the changes that will come following the implementation of mobile-first indexing.
A Quick Recap to Mobile-First Indexing
Before diving deeper into the subject, it might be a good idea to refresh your memory on Google’s mobile-first indexing. Up until now, Google consistently used the desktop version of a webpage’s content for its indexing and ranking systems. Since more Google search queries than ever are being conducted on a mobile device than on desktop browsers, Google had to change its indexing and ranking systems. It has become vital for Google to provide search results that are both relevant for the user and optimized for the user’s mobile device at the same time. Google solved this problem with mobile-first indexing. Basically the focus for crawling, indexing and ranking content of websites shifts from the desktop version of a website to the mobile version of that website. Google will from now on primarily use the mobile version of a website for its ranking. However, this does not mean there will be a separate mobile-first index. There is still one index for all Google search results but the process of ranking the web pages content now simply starts with crawling the mobile web pages first.
Does Mobile-First Indexing Change the SEO-Game Completely?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question since it can differ for every website. The change to mobile-first indexing is still in its early stages. Google doesn’t want to disrupt the SEO world and is therefore gradually implementing mobile-first indexing to websites that are mobile-friendly enough to experience no negative impact from this shift. This grants you some time to assess your own position and to prepare for potential modifications to your website.
This chart provided by Google gives a great understanding whether a website needs to be optimized for mobile-first indexing or not
Optimize Your Website for Mobile-First Indexing
Based on the information brought by the chart above you might have to take action and adjust your website. There are several aspects from the website that should be taken into consideration. Following are the steps which must be taken when the desktop and mobile version of the website use dynamic serving or a different URL.
The mobile version of a website has to contain all of the valuable primary content that can be found on the desktop version of the website. Incorporate the text, images (alt-attributes included) and videos in formats that are crawlable and indexable.
When you don’t have a responsive site, implement the same data structure from your desktop site on the mobile version of your site. Don’t stuff the website with irrelevant structured data which doesn’t contribute to the specific content of the page. Finally, the titles and Meta descriptions have to be identical on both versions of all pages.
There are several technical measures that should be taken when a website does not use a responsive design.
- Verify both of your websites in the Google Search Console by adding the robots.txt to your mobile site. This way the Smartphone Googlebot can crawl your mobile site to index it in the Google Search Index.
- Provide enough capacity for your servers so they will be able to handle a possible increased crawl rate from the Smartphone Googlebot.
- Do a speed test. Google announced at the beginning of the year that from July 2018 onward page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches. Google only wants to display fast loading websites in its search results since it’s shown that people care about the speed of a page. It’s recommended to detect certain parts of a mobile website that could be speed up using Google’s mobile speed test.
What to Do When You Only Have a Desktop Website?
As we all know, Google’s ranking system uses many factors, with mobile friendliness being only one of them. That being said, it might be necessary for Google to still display content that is not mobile-friendly in case it is more relevant than the mobile-friendly content. Even when you only have a desktop website you’ll still be represented in the Google search index. Over time however, it is better to have a proper mobile website. Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that Google will visit your desktop site when it has already crawled your mobile site. Therefore, it is recommended not to launch a mobile website unless it is excellent!
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