Each update that Google brings out is evidently its attempt to move a step closer to its ultimate goal – to provide the users with the best possible online search experience. That being said, the search giant keeps a close watch on the users’ search behaviours, for instance, how do they choose to interact with the search engine at any given time, what is it that’s been keeping them engaged, and much more. For digital marketers, however, this raises a curtain to a whole new avenue of nuances to take care of, requiring them to make certain changes on the website or search engine marketing strategies.
“Searching on the go” is not just a buzzword, but an indispensable necessity for millennials which quells their hunger for instant information while on the move. In view of this, Google has brought to the Internet search landscape another update – mobile-first indexing. It means exactly what it sounds like – Google will crawl and index the mobile version of your website first, and then the desktop version.
Please note that it doesn’t at all mean mobile-only. If your website doesn’t have a mobile version, Google will simply crawl the desktop version, as it was doing earlier.
Why Mobile-First Indexing?
The usage of mobile devices has skyrocketed to such a level that it now occupies 52.2% of overall online searches (i.e. more than desktop searches!). These staggering figures have, in a way, served as an impetus for Google’s launch of mobile-first indexing strategy.
As stated earlier, mobile-first indexing implies that if you have both mobile and desktop websites for your business, Google will start with indexing the mobile website and then go on with the desktop version. Simply put, the mobile version will now be viewed as a “primary version” of your website, as opposed to the desktop version which has now shifted to the “second” position. Up till now, the desktop version was the “primary version” for Google indexing.
What changes do you need to make to accommodate this update?
Change often brings along with it some hand-wringing and upheaval, but this one doesn’t, as you may not have to make any major changes. Here are some pertinent action steps that you may or may not require to bring forth, based on your specific instances:
- In case you have a responsive web design, or the web pages were developed in AMP HTML, and/or the content has been optimized for mobile, the change should not have any major impact on your website’s performance in search engine results. This is due to the fact that the mobile version is identical to the desktop version.
- When you have dynamic web content, i.e. the content varies depending on different devices and users, the mobile website will be indexed first.
- If the website entails both AMP and non-AMP web pages, Google will index the non-AMP mobile version of the website first.
- Mobile-first indexing does away with the traditional practice wherein the index and rank were divided between both the versions of a website and hence the need for a responsive web design. However, now, if you have two different URLs for your website, it means Google will index the mobile site first followed up by the desktop website. As a result, you won’t miss out on any amount of indexing and ranking.
How will it impact your SEO?
More or less, the best practices remain the same, though there are some implications to pay heed to while riding out this change. Here is a breakdown of top 4 practices to follow if you have a separate mobile website:
- Website Content: Make sure both versions of the website are loaded with identical valuable, high-quality content, including images, text and videos. The formats deployed on the mobile website should be indexable and crawlable, and this also encompasses alt-attributes for images.
- Structured Data: Just like content, the same structured data markups should be included on both the desktop and mobile version of your website. Avoid adding irrelevant structured data that has nothing to do with your website.
- Metadata: The meta description and title should be “equivalent” on both the versions. Please note that the guideline says equivalent, not identical, which means you could still optimize the mobile titles to ensure shorter character counts, however you’ll have to ensure to include the relevant keywords and similar information.
- Server Capacity: If the mobile version of your website is run on a separate host (such as m.example.com), take care that it can handle the increased crawl rate. Hosting occupies great significance as it is the key determining factor in a website’s loading speed, and thus contributes to the website ranking.
To put it all together, the mobile-first index is just a change to the way the content is gathered by Google for indexing. If the web content and page overall are mobile friendly, the website is likely to have a higher ranking in search results whenever users are searching on their mobile devices.