All You Need to Know about Google’s Mobile-First Indexing
You might have heard about Google’s plan to implement mobile-first indexing from July 2018. Now, what exactly it is and how does it affect your ranking might puzzle you. The new mobile-first indexing simply means that Google will create and rank its search listings based on the mobile version of content. To prepare you for this change, here we have discussed how it can impact your search ranking and what you can do about it.
Considering that more and more searches happen on mobile, last March, Google announced that they are planning to launch mobile-first indexing. The company’s official blog stated, “We’ll use the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.”
Since the majority of searches come from a mobile device, Google decided to give those users a better experience. Moreover, the desktop websites will be considered the primary version until July after that the mobile version of the web will be the primary search engine index.
A search engine index is responsible for searching and showing pages to the web users, primarily via crawling the web through links. Till now, Google crawling was based on the desktop browser searches, but now Google is considering crawling the web-based on mobile browser searches.
Desktop version still works, if you don’t have a mobile version
Don’t panic if you don’t have a mobile site because this new approach means “mobile-first”, not “mobile-only” indexing. “If you only have a desktop site, we’ll continue to index your desktop site just fine, even if we’re using a mobile user agent to view your site,” says Google. This means, Google will continue to index the desktop version, although your ranking may not be as high as your mobile-friendly competitors. For this reason, a functional mobile version is recommended for high ranking.
In case, your mobile version of the website has less content on page A than the desktop version of page A, then Google will probably just see the mobile version with less content.
Single index for both mobile and desktop
Notably, there will not be separate indexes for desktop and mobile versions. Eventually, there will be a single index based on mobile content, to serve listings for both mobile and desktop users, if the mobile-first index proves successful. In case, the new index doesn’t turn out to be useful, Google could go back to a desktop-first index. Paul Haahr from Google avers, “Index of mobile pages for mobile users and index of desktop pages for desktop users won’t happen.”
What do you need to do about Google`s Mobile-First Indexing?
Those who have a responsive website design with similar content on desktop and mobile versions need not worry much about their search rankings. Google stated, “websites that make use of responsive web design and correctly implement dynamic serving (that include all of the desktop content and markup) generally don’t have to do anything.” However, if your website is not mobile-friendly, then be ready for an upgrade.
User-Friendly websites rank high
The performance of your website depends on its content quality. Mobile version of the website is supposed to avoid heavy visual content and big graphics because the platform doesn’t support it. Moreover, for better user experience, factors like readable font sizes, clickable visual and, tappable phone numbers are important.
It is important to remember that Google may penalize a website with certain types of pop-ups and flash for the mobile version. Make use of the Structured Data Testing Tool and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to make your website responsive and increase the page load speed. Moreover, for separate mobile and desktop versions of the website, both the versions must have metadata. It is important that both versions have the same titles and Meta descriptions.
Useful tools to help you in auditing your website
You can take Google’s mobile friendliness test to check your website’s performance and mobile-friendliness. Following tools will help you in checking your website responsiveness and page speed.
- To check how much mobile-friendly your website is, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. This tool will help you to find out how your website looks to Google. It will also identify problems, such as font size and provide you tips for improvement.
- Google has found in a research that if a mobile website takes more than 3 seconds to load, more than 53% of mobile users tend to move away from it. For this, GTmetrix tool is designed to access the website’s speed. You can use it to check your page loading speed and tips to increase the speed.
- The robots.txt testing tool is provided to ensure the accessibility of the website’s mobile version by Googlebot.
- To check the performance of your page on the Chrome UX Report, try PageSpeed Insights.
- The Fetch and Render tool in the Google Search Console will help you to find out how Google see and index your mobile site.
- Google’s Lighthouse is another option to audit the performance, accessibility, and speed of your website.
So, don’t panic about this change, just take some time to evaluate the mobile site and know how to upgrade the mobile version of your website. Google has made it clear that mobile-friendly content will impact ranking. Therefore, you need to first test the mobile version of your website and then upgrade it accordingly. Check whether your desktop and mobile sites are equivalent, the design is appropriate, icons size is sufficient to tap, and the text is readable.
January 5, 2019