The way people surf the web is evolving and this means search engines have to as well. In response to this change in consumer behaviour, last November Google announced their plans to test mobile-first indexing.
What is Mobile First Indexing?
Put simply, when Google looks at ranking factors on a particular web page, historically the search engine, by default, only ever looked at the desktop version. Taking into consideration the relevance of the on page content to the user query in order to determine where that page ranked in the search engine results pages (SERPs). By doing this, Google’s algorithms were returning results from the desktop version of a website to users searching on a mobile device.
But Why is This a Problem?
More people browse the Internet using mobile devices more than ever before. On page content is one of the biggest ranking factors as it enables search engines to gain a better understanding of the context of the pages within your website. Naturally mobile sites are designed differently to suit the screen size, which means less or often hidden written content.
This change in user behaviour means that search engines have to adapt in order to keep returning the most relevant results to its users. Therefore, Google has been carrying out tests to index the mobile version of a website, as opposed to the desktop version. Google states;
Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.
What You Can Do In Preparation For Mobile First Indexing
As Google’s testing is in its infancy, there is no need to panic. However, if you have a website, it’s imperative that you ensure your online offering is sufficiently mobile-focused in order to benefit from this change.
Firstly, is your website considered mobile-friendly?
If you have a responsive or dynamic server site where the content and markup remains consistent across several devices, you needn’t worry. Unless primary content changes dramatically to suit the styling of the page, as this could affect your rankings.
From an SEO perspective, having a separate mobile site with a different URL isn’t recommended. However, if a website redesign isn’t an option for you, here are some changes that you must begin to make before mobile first indexing is made permanent;
- Ensure structured data is implemented on both desktop and mobile versions of your site. However, limit the amount of irrelevant markup on your mobile site where possible. Structured data allows search engines to truly understand page elements in order to generate rich snippets within the SERPs. For example; business names, address, phone number etc. It can also include complex information such as reviews, events, products, recipes, articles etc.
- Make sure the mobile version of your site is accessible to Google by using the robots.txt testing tool.
- Verify the mobile version of your site within Google Search Console.
- H1 tags, meta data and primary content should remain the same on both versions of your site.
- Images should be appropriately scaled for device resolution and alt attributes should be implemented targeting primary keywords for both versions of the site.
Google reiterate that a functional desktop site currently takes precedence over a broken or incomplete mobile site. Which would indicate that for the time being, if you don’t have a mobile site, Google will keep indexing your desktop site. However once the change is made permanent you could be looking at a significant loss in organic traffic and rankings.
Worried about your online offering? Or want to have chat about improving your mobile site? Get in touch today on 01244 911 366.