Almost exactly a year ago we wrote about Google’s Mobile-first Indexing.
Last week, Google announced that after a year and half of testing, they are now ready to roll out the Mobile-first Indexing algorithm.
What is it and why is it being released?
Google’s crawling, indexing and ranking systems typically look at the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate its relevance to the user. However, this may cause issues for a mobile searcher if the mobile version of the page has less or different content. Nearly 60% of searches are now carried out on a mobile device, so a mobile searcher has become a primary user for Google. To serve them better, Google is rolling out this algorithm. Mobile-first Indexing means Google will use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help their – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.
Basically, your site’s mobile version will become the primary version being crawled and indexed.
How will I know if Google is crawling my mobile version?
Google are notifying sites that are migrating to Mobile-first indexing via the Search Console, and site owners will see a significantly increased crawl rate from the Smartphone Googlebot. Additionally, Google will show the mobile version of pages in Search results and Google cached pages.
What if I do not get a notification?
According to Google, if you don’t receive any notification initially, there is no need to worry. Content gathered by Mobile-first Indexing has no ranking advantage over mobile content that’s not yet gathered this way, or desktop content. Moreover, if you only have desktop content, you will continue to be represented in the Google index.
What we think.
According to Google’s own latest guidance on the topic, if your website is responsive or otherwise identical in its desktop and mobile versions, you may not have to do anything differently.
Even though your site is responsive, you should check the following:
- Mobile Page Speed
- Any Dynamic elements are correctly optimised for the mobile experience
Note that with Mobile-first Indexing, content which is collapsed or hidden in tabs etc. due to space limitations will not be treated differently than visible content (as it may have been previously), since this type of screen real estate management is a mobile best practice.
If you have a separate mobile version of your site, then ensure that you have checked the following:
- Content: make sure your mobile version has all the high-quality, valuable content that exists on your desktop site.
- Structured data: you should include the same structured data mark up on both the mobile and desktop versions of the site.
- Metadata: ensure that titles and Meta descriptions are equivalent on both versions of all pages.
- Note that the official guidance says ‘equivalent’ rather than ‘identical’ – you may still want to optimize your mobile titles for shorter character counts, but make sure the same information and relevant keywords are included.
- Hreflang: if you use rel=hreflang for internationalization, your mobile URLs hreflang annotations should point to the mobile version of your country or language variants, and desktop URLs should point to the desktop versions.
- Social Meta Details: OpenGraph tags, Twitter cards and other social Metadata should be included on the mobile version as well as the desktop version.
- XML and media sitemaps: ensure that any links to sitemaps are accessible from the mobile version of the site.
- Search Console verification: if you have only verified your desktop site in Google Search Console, make sure you also add and verify the mobile version.
What if I only have a desktop version of the site and it is not mobile friendly?
Mobile-first means that the mobile version will be considered the primary version when it comes to how rankings are determined. However, there may be circumstances where the desktop version could be taken into consideration. However, you may not rank as well in comparison to mobile-friendly websites.
Although Google are saying that there is no need to worry and they will continue to index the desktop content, our recommendation is to have a responsive website. Not only for the Search Engines but to best serve your prospective customers. If you want to reach out to your customers who use mobiles, then it is best to get onto the responsive design band wagon.
Here at teclan, we have successfully migrated many of our client’s websites to responsive versions. Contact us on 01463 898043 to see if we can help you to go responsive.