Earlier this year, there was a lot of talk about mobile-first indexing, which has to do with Google trying to make the web more mobile friendly, as Google is starting to slowly roll this new way of indexing out.
With more people accessing Google from mobile devices rather than a desktop, Google has decided to prioritize mobile results in its search engine rankings. According to Google, 94% of people in America with smartphones search for local information on their phones, and 77% of mobile searches happen at home or where, even though people possible have a desktop computer nearby.
In this post, our team at Fincel Design wanted to share with you what mobile-first indexing is, what is means for you and your business, and what it means for SEO.
What is Mobile-First Indexing?
Basically, with mobile-first indexing, Google will consider the mobile version of your website as the primary version of your website.
Whether mobile or desktop indexing, Google indexes your content, and all the content on the web, by algorithms. Google’s bots crawl your page’s URLs, index these pages, and put them in the search engine.
Mobile-first indexing means the mobile version of your website is the starting point for what Google includes in their index and the baseline for how it determines the rankings. If you do not have a mobile-friendly version of your site, the desktop version will still be included in the index; however, Google can use the fact that you don’t have a mobile-friendly site against you, which would lower you in the rankings. For sites with great mobile options, they will receive a boost in the rankings.
If you’ve made your website mobile-friendly and responsive, Google’s new way of indexing should not negatively impact you in the rankings.
Google introduced this new way of indexing back in 2016, since most people search on Google using a mobile device. Google saw this as an issue because their ranking systems still looked at the desktop version of a website to rank it. For Google, this posed as a problem because their algorithms are not evaluating the actual page that the mobile user is seeing.
In the past few years, Google has been testing things out to roll out to make their indexing mobile-first. Their goal is to have their algorithms primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site.
Preparing for the New Way of Indexing
The mobile-first indexing is slowly rolling out, and it started in March 2018.Google is using it on websites it considers ready for this change. Google understands this change is a big shift. You can test to see if your site is mobile friendly on Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page.
To prepare for this mobile-first indexing, Google has a few recommendations and tips:
- If your site is responsive and dynamic where the content and markup is equal on both mobile and desktop platforms, you should be fine with the mobile-first indexing and won’t have to make a change. If your content and markup are different, you should make some changes to your site.
- Not sure if you have a responsive site? If you have a WordPress site, you likely have a responsive design.
- Use the robots.txt testing tool to see If your mobile site is accessible to the Googlebot.
- You don’t have to make changes to canonical links.
- Add and verify your mobile version of your site on the Google Search Console.
- Google will still index your site by the desktop version if you don’t have a mobile site.
Some other things to keep in mind when creating or updating your mobile site for the mobile-first indexing:
- Make sure your mobile page speed and load time are fast. Google offers a PageSpeed Insights tool that tell you the speed of both your desktop and mobile sites. The tool will also tell you what you need to fix to make your site faster.
- Make sure your content is quality. You want the copy to be like the copy on your desktop.
- Write your content in shorter sentences and smaller paragraphs. Long copy is hard to read on a smaller screen. But remember, keep the content high-quality.
- Use a lot of white space on the mobile site to make it easier to read.
- Use larger fonts to make the mobile site easier to read.
- Make sure buttons/tabs are large enough to tap on a mobile device.
- Make sure your overall design is attractive, easy-to-navigate, and gives the mobile user a good experience.
- Use metadata info (alt tags, meta descriptions, and meta titles) on your mobile site and make sure they are the same as the desktop site.
- Your mobile and desktop sites should have the same structured date markup.
- Social metadata should be included on the mobile site.
- Make sure any links to sitemaps are accessible from the mobile version of the site.
- If you have mobile switchboard tags, you don’t need to change them.
- If you have an app indexation set up for the desktop site, make sure the mobile site is verified in relation to the app files.
- Use accordion navigation to make your mobile site more user-friendly.
Breaking Down the Indexing Change
- If your site is desktop only and doesn’t have a mobile-friendly version, there is no change. Your mobile version would be the same as the desktop version; however, you may not rank as well in the future, especially if your mobile version isn’t user- friendly.
- If your site has a responsive web design, meaning your site adjusts for screen size, there is no change, and your mobile version is the same as the desktop version. You will likely still rank well with the new mobile-first indexing.
- If all your web pages are created in AMP HTML, there is no change, and the mobile version is the same as the desktop version of the site.
- If your desktop site URL has a different URL that serves mobile-optimized content, you will have to make a change, since Google prefers the mobile URL for indexing.
- If your site gives different content on the desktop version than the mobile version (even though users see one
- If your site has both AMP and non-AMP versions of a page, users see two different URLs, and you will have to make a change, since Google prefers the mobile version of the non-AMP URL for indexing.
Things to Know About the Mobile-First Indexing Change
- Google is sticking to one index. It is just looking at mobile versions before desktop versions to index; there will not be two separate indexes.
- Google is still testing; it probably won’t be a fully mobile-first index for a few more years.
- Google is evaluating sites independently on how ready they are for the switch to mobile-first.
- Google is rolling this out slowly, so webmasters can get their mobile-sites ready.
- You should still track your rankings for both the desktop and mobile versions of your site.
- Google recommends you don’t launch a mobile site until it is ready, because it won’t be good to have a broken or incomplete mobile site when it comes to indexing and rankings.
- If you don’t have a mobile site or if your desktop version isn’t mobile friendly, you may never rank as well with those sites that do have great mobile sites.
- You want to slowly move all your content from your desktop to the mobile version of your site. Not only will this help your mobile site rank well, but your desktop content may not be crawled again for a long time or ever.
- If you have a responsive site, you don’t have to do much work other than make you’re your mobile site is optimized in terms of speed, load time, navigation, images, meta information, etc.
- If your site has separate URLs, you need to verify both versions of your site in Google Search Console, check hreflang lines on separate URLs, make sure your servers have enough capacity to handle the increased crawl rate on your mobile site, check that your robots.txt.directives work for both versions of the site, and make sure you have the right rel=canonical and rel=alternate link elements between your mobile and desktop versions.
Mobile-First Indexing and Rankings
Right now, Google isn’t using the mobile-first indexing for rankings, since not all websites are part of this index, yet. Right now, Google is crawling sites and many sites are not affected by the switch yet.
The crawl count per day won’t change, but there will be a shift to the number of mobile pages crawled versus desktop pages. While it re-indexes your website, Google may increase crawling temporarily.
Down the line, you will still rank if you don’t have a mobile site or mobile-friendly site, but mobile sites will be a top priority. Mobile-friendly or mobile-responsive sites are not required for this new indexing, and your site will still work on mobile and will still index, but it is encouraged that everyone makes the move to mobile-friendly/responsive sites.
It’s a good idea to prepare your mobile site or mobile-friendly site now for the change to the mobile-first index, so you will not be hurt negatively in the rankings.
Even if you have a mobile-responsive site, you may want to still be proactive with this change and do a little preparation. If your content isn’t really geared toward a mobile audience, this can still hurt you even if your site is responsible. According to BrightEdge, an SEO Content Performance Marketing site, 79 percent of keywords returned different results across mobile and desktop – this means a desktop user versus a mobile user expect different content.
Work with a Digital Marketing Company to Get Your Site Ready for Mobile-First Indexing
Google’s decision to go with a mobile-first indexing is no surprise, considering most users access Google by mobile devices. To continue to rank well in the future, it’s your job to make your site mobile-friendly and improve the user experience on your mobile site.
This index change is an opportunity for all sites/businesses to look at their mobile sites and see if they are truly user-friendly. Would you want to come to this site and use it? If the answer is no, most people would probably agree with you. You want to design a mobile experience that is better for users. You want your site to be easy-to-use and easy-to-read. You want to give users quality content and information. This change to mobile-first isn’t just about making Google happy; it’s about making your potential customers happy. Google is catering to people and their habits, and your site should too, or you’ll be left in the dust.
Technology is always changing and the way we view and use things is always changing, so it’s no surprise people are wanting better mobile content and experiences, since they’re on mobile devices a lot more than desktops!
At Fincel Design, we are going into our clients’ sites one-by-one to make sure their sites are responsive and mobile-friendly. We want our clients to continue to rank well and not be hit hard when the switch to this new focus of indexing officially begins.
Being mobile ready is critical to your business, since so many of your potential customers and clients will access your website through their mobile devices.
Nervous about the switch to mobile-first indexing? Not sure if your site is mobile-friendly or responsive? Don’t have time to make your site mobile friendly? Let us help! You don’t want all your SEO and online marketing efforts to slip away if Google ranks you poorly, because you’re not prepared with a mobile site.
At Fincel Design, we can help you through the transition to mobile-first indexing. If you don’t have a mobile site or responsive site, we can create one for you. We will create a content-rich site that is user-friendly, easy-to-navigate, easy-to-read, and has proper meta information.
Our team is prepared and ready for the mobile-first index switch. We are here to help you! The future is mobile!
If you need help with making your website mobile-friendly, we can do this easily for you. We are a full-service digital marketing agency. We know what Google is looking for in mobile site. Contact us or call 904-834-0509.