Google has officially announced the implementation of mobile-first indexing, and many companies are concerned about their rankings. Simply put, Google’s bots will crawl, index, and rank the mobile versions of webpages first. Though these changes have yet to impact current site rankings, there is a good chance that they might in the future. Here’s what you should know about mobile-first indexing and what it could mean for your business.
Google is a company just like yours, and ultimately, its goal is to be the very best at what it does. Its mission involves delivering users the most relevant results based on their searches. Since early 2015, more than half of all Google searches have originated from mobile devices. Furthermore, a Zenith forecast shows that 79% of all internet use will originate from mobile devices by the end of 2018. As a result, Google is taking a tremendous step by indexing the mobile versions of web pages before all others. This means that Google will deliver the best possible search experience for its users regardless of the devices they use.
Will Your Ranking Change?
Google claims that mobile-first indexing will not impact any site’s overall ranking. If a competitor’s website is migrated to mobile-first indexing before yours, for example, that site will have no advantage over yours because of the migration. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Google’s ultimate goal involves delivering the best possible results to users. This means that when someone searches from a mobile device, Google will rank sites and pages that are mobile-friendly above those that are not. This means that it is in your best interest to make your website as responsive as possible – and quickly.
Is Your Site Ready for Mobile-First Indexing?
Though your rankings for searches originating from desktops may not change, searches originating from mobile devices are different. It is crucial for your business to focus on mobile optimization now in order to maintain your rankings for mobile searches. To find out whether your site is ready for mobile-first indexing, consider the following points:
- Is your site mobile-friendly or mobile-responsive? There is a tremendous difference between the two. A mobile-friendly website may display on a user’s smartphone, but it may still have several problems when it comes to the overall user experience. A mobile-responsive website is one that syncs your pages beautifully by sending the same HTML code to computers, tablets, and smartphones, thus eliminating the need to pinch, zoom, and change screen orientation to properly view the site. Google prefers a responsive website.
- Are your desktop and mobile sites separate? It seems like a good idea, and prior to 2015 when mobile searches became more common, it was. These days, though, monitoring multiple websites and reformatting content to display properly on the mobile version is a lot of work that provides little reward.
- How fast is your mobile site? A 2017 report showed that most websites around the world – and in every single industry – were three times slower than Google’s recommended benchmark of three seconds. To make your site load faster on mobile devices, check the size. Google recommends a 500KB maximum page size, but most mobile pages are measured in megabytes, instead.
- Is your site laden with too many images? Finally, another 2016 report compiled through a partnership between Google and analytics company SOASTA showed that excessive images on mobile webpages actually reduced conversion rates due to the slow run times.
Prepare Yourself Now
After addressing the issues above, you can begin to prepare your website for mobile indexing in several unique ways. Google provides official advice for ensuring your site is ready for the migration – and ways to help maintain your ranking following the migration, too. The best webpages will have the following:
- Consistent Content – It is important to make certain that your page and site displays the same text, imagery, and videos across all devices and that these elements are easy to crawl from mobile devices.
- Structured Data – Another vital consideration is the structure of data across mobile and desktop versions of your site. What’s more, if you have two separate URLs (one for each version), then you must update the data on your mobile pages to a mobile version.
- Congruent Metadata – To ensure quick migration and consistent rankings, it’s important to ensure that blog titles, image descriptions, and other forms of metadata have been updated on both versions of your site.
- Server Capacity – Finally, Google cautions that some sites may lack the server capacity for the Googlebot to accurately crawl mobile websites. For this reason, make sure your server is prepared for the increased crawl rates.
Check Your SEO
After you’ve taken all the steps to ensure that your website is eligible for migration and meets the necessary criteria to keep its ranking, you can start thinking more about your mobile SEO and how to improve it. There are several ways to do this, and you can find tips spread all across the internet. Some of the best include:
- Using Google’s mobile-friendly test. This handy little tool direct from Google allows you to plug in each page on your site to get up-to-date information about the overall user friendliness of the mobile version of your site. The higher your score, the better off you’ll be.
- Make sure Google is indexing your mobile pages in the first place. To do it, open the Google search engine on your smartphone and type in site:mywebsite.com, replacing the mywebsite.com with your site’s address. If it doesn’t display, Google isn’t even indexing your mobile site.
- Check for smartphone errors in the Search Console. Open the Google Search Console, then choose Crawl Errors, and finally choose Smartphone Errors. The steps you will need to take to resolve these depend upon the errors themselves, but once you resolve them, your content can be more easily indexed.
- Remove hidden content. To put it as simply as possible, Google is not a fan of hidden content. Make sure that your entire site – all the content on every page – is visible to users on every device. If text is cut off and invisible to mobile users, this goes against Google’s guidelines and will inevitably affect your rankings.
Though mobile SEO has been important for several years now, Google’s rollout of mobile-first indexing is about to change everything. With so many people now searching from their mobile devices, it is vital that every page on your site is just as clear and easy to use on a smartphone as it is on a desktop. If you fail to take these steps now, your website may very well become completely invisible – at least to mobile users.