Mobile First Indexing – What’s It All About?

Posted 27.02.2018

By Lucy Bradley

Google’s core aim is to provide the best experience to its users by truly reflecting the trends and behaviour exhibited by them. Heading into 2018, there was a lot of talk around Google rolling out mobile first indexing in their efforts to focus on the mobile experience that they provide to their users. This comes as no surprise with 52.2% of all website traffic worldwide being generated through mobile phones in 2018 so far. However, there is no need to panic – Google has confirmed they are still in their testing stage and are rolling this update out slowly. Yet it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, as it can be confusing to know whether you need to change your site, or if your site is actually already ready. We’ve put together the key facts you need to know to get ready for the age of mobile first indexing.

What Actually Is Mobile First Indexing?

Naturally, the first question to answer is what mobile first indexing actually is. This means the mobile version of your site is what Google looks at for their index, therefore this site is what will have a major influence on rankings in the search engine results. In the past, the desktop version of the site was considered the primary version, therefore it was this that had a direct impact on rankings. Yet, with users reaching for their mobile devices more than ever, it makes sense that mobile sites are now regarded as the primary version of the site, with desktop versions as the alternative.

Will Google Only Look At Mobile Site?

Does this mean that Google will only look at mobile versions of sites? No, it is Mobile First Indexing, not Mobile Only Indexing. This means, Google will look at the mobile version of the site as the first point of call, but they are not limited to mobile only. So if your site is not mobile friendly, Google will still crawl the desktop version, however it is likely that this will have a negative impact on your site’s rankings. This will therefore have an impact on both mobile and desktop rankings, and the varying results between them both are something you’ll want to track.

How To Prepare

According to a statement released by Google ‘If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything’ (source). Having a responsive website isn’t only important for mobile first indexing, but from a user experience point of view – which is key in SEO for 2018. If you want to provide good UX for all your users, across a wide range of devices making sure your site is responsive is key. If you make sure that your site is usable and looks good across all devices and you’re on the right tracks.

Following on from design is the content that appears on your site. It is just as important to have content that is optimised for mobile as it is for desktop. Focus on including valuable content that is engaging for the mobile user on your site, just as you would for desktop. This applies to text, videos and images, not only this but makes sure that the formats of this content are crawlable for Google.

Separate Mobile Site

If you have a separate mobile site and plan on keeping it that way there are ways you can prepare too:

  • Content – as we mentioned above, make sure that your content is fully optimised for mobile users, and that you don’t lose any valuable content that is only stated on the desktop version of your site.
  • Metadata – making sure that meta descriptions and meta titles occur across both mobile and desktop versions of the sites.
  • Structured data – ensuring that the structured data you have implemented appears across both the mobile and desktop sites.
  • Check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs – if you have link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization make sure that the URLs’ hreflang annotations point to the mobile version on your mobile site, and desktop to the desktop versions.

Nothing We Don’t Already Know

So it turns out that all the hype around mobile first indexing is actually nothing we aren’t already familiar with. If you have a mobile first mindset, and a website with a fully responsive design there is nothing to worry about. With the rapid rise of mobile users, we should all be ensuring that our websites are geared towards providing a fantastic user experience across all devices. This doesn’t only provide good signals to the search engines and the impact this has on rankings, but on the way, users use your site, and how the site is working towards your goals. Ultimately, this is a strong message from Google that shifting towards a mobile first index is important for users, and this should be taken seriously when it comes to the creation of our website and user journeys.

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