Latest Buzz by Google (Mobile-first indexing)
In latest updates by Google which tend to make the web experience better compatible and suitable for the mobile platform, the mentioning of mobile-first indexing has been noted a lot. Google is continuously striving to improve the user- experience and the mobile-first indexing is also a part of these efforts. However, there are some implications in this matter regarding the average business owners. What are they supposed to do? They have a well-optimized webpage. However, owing to the latest upgrades, do they have to upgrade the website as well?
People have confusions that mobile-first indexing might turn into another “MOBILEPOCALYSE” and that they might have to start the on-page optimization again. Here, you will learn about mobile-first indexing and everything related to it.
Meaning of Mobile-first indexing
Exactly as it sounds, the update implies that the Google algorithm will give priority to the mobile version of your website. The Google indexing will hold the mobile versions of websites prior, and the ranking will be determined based on that.
The index is named as mobile-first which means that the index will also include the desktop version of the website. However it will give priority to the mobile version. Hence, a website with better mobile but bad desktop webpage will be ranked first than a website with better desktop and bad mobile webpage. This also means that if a website has a better mobile design, then it will appear first in the search engine rankings for searchers on the desktop too.
Mobile version – Primary concern
The mobile version of your website now holds significant importance and is now the primary concern for you. Thus, you have to give equal importance to both the desktop as well as mobile versions. Along with a responsive design, you must optimize the mobile version of your site so that the performance of your site can be improved in the Google search results.
There has been a change in Google’s prioritization of indexation and crawling. After this update, Google thinks about the website content differently. Before this, the primary version of the website was the desktop version whereas the mobile site was an alternate option for particular uses. Hence, Google had been encouraging the webmasters and providing a specific mobile site with m.domain.com URL so that the switchboard tags can be implemented. Now, Google will simply direct the searchers to the mobile URL.
Old SEO tactic: Prioritizing desktop site
Since the desktop site was considered as the primary version of a website, SEO tactics prioritized the desktop site optimization. Desktop version was always looked up by the marketing team so that they could fill it up with relevant data and content and most of the backlinks etc. The mobile site, on the other hand, had relatively lighter content and wasn’t much focused when it came to receiving external attention and backlinks. Now, let’s see what the need of the hour is after the recent update of mobile- first indexing? The norms will have to be changed perhaps.
What to do about mobile- first indexing
Now, how can you improve the site or what changes you should make to your site after the update? Up until now, Google has not applied it completely, and the indexing is just in the initial testing phase. Google has started to roll out this update and apply it to websites which are ready to implement this change with a minimum impact on their ranking.
Google has also issued its guideline regarding mobile-first indexing where it dictates that if the website is equally responsive and well- optimized for both desktops as well as the mobile versions, then the ranking of that website will not be changed.
So, one thing is for sure, even if you have a responsive site. Still, you will have to make sure that the mobile page load time and speed are prioritized. Moreover, all the images or graphs or any other element present on the site should be optimized for mobile experience.
Previously, the hidden content in tabs, etc. because of less space, was being treated differently than the visible content on the page. However, with the update of mobile-first indexing, this will not be the case. It is a mobile best practice to adjust the screen space according to the content.
Things to do for the mobile site
Now, if you are having a separate mobile version of your website, the following are the checks that you have to ensure.
All the content present on the desktop site should be valuable and of high quality in mobile version too. This includes all type of content like videos, images, and text. You will have to ensure all formats you are using on the mobile site are both indexable and crawlable.
If rel=hreflang is being used for internationalization, then the annotations of desktop URLs’ hreflang must direct to the desktop version of one’s country or the language variant and same is the case for mobile URLs which should direct to the desktop versions.
The structured data markup included on both desktop and mobile versions of the site should be the same. The URL of the mobile version of the website should be shown within the structured data on mobile pages. If any of structured data is redundant and not directly related to the content of the page, then it is better to avoid it.
The social metadata such as Twitter cards and OpenGraph tags must be included in both versions of the website, desktop, and mobile.
The meta descriptions and meta titles on both versions of the website are equivalent. This doesn’t mean that the title on both desktop and mobile versions of the websites must be kept same. Rather, you can optimize the titles of web pages for the mobile version and make them shorter and to the time. This will help in decreasing the character count and include the relevant keyword in it.
XML and media sitemaps
Mobile version of the site should provide access to all links to sitemaps.
The switchboard tags must be kept in the same manner as before the mobile-first indexing. So, if you have implemented mobile switchboard tags, then keep them as they are.
Verification of Search Console
The mobile version of the website should also be added and verified in the Google Search Console just like the desktop site.
There will be an increased crawl rate, and you have to make sure that the increased rate can be handled by your host servers.
If the app indexation is set up for the desktop site, then you will have to make sure that the mobile site is also verified regarding app association files, etc.
FAQs regarding mobile-first indexing
1. Is there a separate mobile index where mobile-first indexing will add mobile pages?
No, the index is the same as Google is using right now. With the update of mobile-first indexing, the priority of indexing will be changed to a mobile version of the website without the creation of any new index.
2. Has mobile-first index started to affect my site? Is it implemented by Google already?
Till now, Google has only tried this approach as an experiment on some of the sites that were ready to take on this update and will be affected minimum. These sites were selected on the base of their perceived readiness. To implement this approach at a wide scale, there might be some long time required.
Google has said in the Webmasters Blog that for mobile- first indexing, they will evaluate sites independently based on their readiness according to the criterion as stated above. Google will transition the sites when they are ready. The process is started on some sites, and the search team is having a closer look at those sites. However, Google has stated that it will be cautious while rolling out the mobile-first indexing. Google wants the sites of webmasters to be ready for mobile users so Google will implement this approach very slowly.
3. Does the ranking on Google search results depend solely on mobile site?
As stated above, the mobile-first indexing will prioritize the mobile version of the website as the primary version to determine the rankings of any webpage. But the desktop version is also quite significant. It may not be primary version, but still, it accounts for some other elements on which the ranking is based.
Based on user behavior and some other reasons, the desktop results vary from the mobile search results. So, you might want to take a look at both the rankings and track both too.
4. What if there is no mobile version of my website?
You should get a mobile version of your website and optimize it to compete with your potential competitors. However, as per the indexing is concerned, even if the mobile version is not there, the content can still be indexed. But the absence of a mobile version of website adversely affects overall desktop rankings and mobile search results.