Google Mobile First Indexing
How Mobile First Indexing Can Help Your Online Success
Two years ago, Google publicly leaked their intent to affect a change in the function of its indexing system. The plan detailed how its algorithm would shift to a mobile version of a website to index content of its pages and understand its structured data, so it could show snippets of these websites in its results. This meant in essence that Google would place emphasis on mobile version of websites when returning results for relevant searches.
By the following December, Google announced it had begun tests of sorts, using a handful of sites to its mobile first indexing, but refused to reveal more.
Fast forward to March 2018 when Google performed an official roll out of websites that meet the mobile first indexing best practices. For many people, this is old news; but for those who are not in the loop, this article will cover mobile first indexing and what it means for your business.
What is mobile first indexing?
Mobile first indexing is all about how Google crawls websites. Google has one index, but how it crawls the index will be based on how well websites provide mobile experience.
Google explains: “To recap, our crawling, indexing and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page’s content, which may cause issues for mobile searchers when that version is vastly different from the mobile version. Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our - primarily mobile - users find what they’re looking for.”
This explanation simply means that mobile friendly websites will be given priority in search results.
How does mobile first indexing affect your website?
It’s no secret that the use of mobile devices to access internet content has surpassed that of desktops. In fact, more than half of internet traffic is from smartphones and mobile devices. There are indications that by the end of 2018, about 75% of all internet traffic will be mobile related. This shows how important having a mobile friendly website is in today’s digital world.
Mobile friendliness has long been one of the factors that determine page ranking. Even though Google says that mobile indexing won’t directly affect how web pages are ranked, it’s safe to assume that mobile friendly websites will fare better in search results. All in all, if your website isn’t ready for mobile first indexing, or you don’t meet Google’s best practices for mobile indexing, you’re risking your website in terms of both traffic and revenue.
The following quote from www.discountdomains.co.nz sums it up perfectly:
“Having a mobile friendly website is no longer optional. Consumer intent is changing and mobile searches are increasingly leading to improved leads and favourable buyer decisions.”
Is your website ready for mobile first indexing?
From the above, you will already know how important having a mobile friendly website is to the growth of your business, especially now that Google has initiated its mobile first indexing plan.
But how can you tell if your website meets the mobile first requirements?
It may come as a surprise, but having a mobile friendly website is not all it takes to meet the mobile first requirements. As a matter of fact, not every responsive website is designed to comply with mobile first best practices.
According to Google’s take on the topic, you need to understand that if your website displays properly and identically in its mobile and desktop versions, you probably won’t need to do anything else (unless you’re not satisfied with your current page rankings). Even then, you may want to confirm that your website has the appropriate mobile page load speed and is easily navigable to provide a positive user experience.
You might also need to check that dynamic elements and images are properly optimised to provide the best mobile experience. Unlike with previous indexing systems, content hidden in tabs or collapsed are not indexed differently from visible content, as this happens due to screen limitation and is actually a mobile first best practice.
The above guidelines cover websites that are mobile friendly in original design or those that use a responsive extension to achieve mobile friendliness.
However, for websites with a separate mobile site, you will need to check the following to determine whether you meet the mobile first requirements:
- Content: The content on your mobile website should be the same as that on your desktop site. This includes text, images, videos, infographics and so on. However, you have to make sure that the format used can be crawled by search engines and this includes using alt-attributes for images.
- Structured data: The structured markup data on your mobile website should be the same as that on the desktop version. However, the URLs within the structured data for mobile pages should be the mobile version. This is what will help search engines better understand your content and retrieve it for search results.
- Metadata: The titles and meta descriptions on both versions of your website should be the same. This is because you may want to optimise your mobile titles to improve the click through rate. Just ensure both contain the same information and relevant keywords.
- Hreflang: Ensure that the Hreflang annotations on your website point to the version it relates to. This means that the mobile URLs should point to the mobile version and the desktop hreflang tags should point to the desktop version.
- XML and media sitemaps: Ensure that sitemaps and robot.txt are accessible from your mobile site and can be verified in Google search console.
- Test for speed: Check to see that your mobile website actually meets the speed requirement that will ensure good user experience. If you’re unsure about the speed of your website, you can easily use Google Mobile Speed Test to identify any areas that need further optimisation.
Google mobile first indexing is here to make sure that mobile search users get only results that are useful to them; this means mobile friendly websites. Already, many websites have got on board by either making their original websites responsive or creating a whole new mobile version. In order to remain relevant online, it’s imperative you do so too, if you haven’t already.