If You Want to Be First on Google Searches, Be Sure to Employ Best Practices for Mobile-First Indexing
On March 26th, 2018, Google announced that after over 18 months of testing they will now begin migrating sites that follow best practices for their mobile-first indexing. This means that Google will now use the mobile version of content to index and rank all websites. Before now, they used the desktop version of a webpage’s content to evaluate how relevant it is to users’ Google searches.
NOTE: You won’t have to change anything if you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the main content and markup is the same in both. However, if your site configurations are different on your mobile and desktop site, you should make some changes to your site. You can check the structured markup across your desktop and mobile versions by typing their URLs into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing them.
We’ve been getting a lot of questions about this, so we’re providing some answers for you below.
Why is Google doing this?
Today, most of us search on Google using our mobile devices. Yet, their ranking system is still based on the desktop versions of websites. This creates issues if the mobile pages contain less data than the desktop pages. In this case, the Google algorithms can’t properly evaluate the actual page that’s seen by the mobile device user.
So, to make their results more accurate, Google started experimenting with their index mobile first initiative. And now that it’s been launched, it will be the primary way Google will search for content, show snippets and rank pages.
How does this work?
Google’s Googlebots (or crawlers) search and index web pages. Crawlers are robots or spiders that automatically locate and read websites by “crawling” from one link to another.
Last summer (June 2017) Google advised website owners to switch their m-dot domains to “responsive” before the Mobile-First Indexing launch. If you didn’t do this, then Google will fully index your m-dot content and URLs. This means that the migration for your site will take longer than it should because Google will have to update the content on your pages.
If you have separate desktop and mobile content for your website, this means that you have a dynamic-serving or separate m-dot site specifically designed for mobile devices.
It’s good to have an m-dot site because you can use it to enhance the mobile experience on your site without compromising your desktop or mobile experience.
Ensure you follow Google’s best practices if you want your sites to rank well now with their mobile-first indexing.
Should our mobile content be different than our desktop content? No. It should be the same. And don’t limit it either. This could cause your ranking to decline. If your mobile site contains less content than your desktop site, it’s time to update it. Plus, be sure you include all of your photos, images, and videos in their original indexable and crawlable formats.
What about the structured data? Should we include it on both of our mobile and desktop versions? Yes. The URLs in the structured data on the mobile versions should be updated to the mobile URLs. If you use Data Highlighter for this be sure to check your dashboard regularly for any extraction errors.
How about the metadata? Do we need it on both versions? Definitely. Make sure that titles and meta descriptions are identical across both versions of your site.
Things that you should verify to meet Google’s new Mobile-First Indexing:
The Finer Details
Three important points to remember:
Google’s ranking, indexing and crawling systems used to use desktop versions of a page’s content. Now, because this may cause problems for mobile searchers they’ll be using the mobile version of a page instead. Google will be showing the mobile version of pages in their Search results and Google cached pages. You should also expect to see increased crawl rates from the Smartphone Googlebot.
You don’t have to worry too much because Google will always present the URL that is most appropriate no matter if it’s a mobile or desktop URL. While their index will be built from mobile documents, they say they will continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. Or you can always contact Google via their Webmaster Forum.