Google tests mobile-first index

On 4 November Google made an announcement that it is introducing mobile-first indexing. As more Google searches are now carried out on mobile rather than desktop Google is trying to make its results more useful and begun experiments to make its indexing mobile-first.

Whilst this is experimental at the moment the intention is to make it a permanent change.

What does this mean and how will it affect your website?

What is mobile-first indexing?

Until now Google’s ranking systems have looked at the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate and determine its relevance to the user. If the mobile page has less content than the desktop page this creates problems for mobile users. The algorithms are not evaluating the actual page that will be seen by a mobile searcher and so return websites that are less relevant to the mobile user.

Mobile-first indexing evaluates the mobile version of a site’s content and ranks pages on that basis.

How will this affect your website rankings?

If you have a mobile responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is the same across mobile and desktop, you won’t be affected. However, if you have a desktop site and a separate mobile site (with less content) your rankings will drop as Google will be using the content on your mobile site to rank your pages. If you only have a desktop site eventually your website won’t feature at all in search.

Check if your website is mobile-friendly with Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.

How to prepare for a mobile-first index

Mobile responsive

If you have a mobile responsive website you don’t need to do anything. Just ensure your site is suitable for both desktop and mobile use whilst still containing all of it’s valuable content.

Avoid the use of pop-ups and Flash, which don’t work well on mobile and help Googlebot find relevant pages by optimising your pages with relevant titles and description.

Desktop and mobile verisons

If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you will need to make some changes to your site. Google recommends:

  • Making sure you serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version. You can verify the equivalence of you structured markup across desktop and mobile by typing the URLs of both versions into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing the output.

When adding structured data to a mobile site, avoid adding large amounts of markup that isn’t relevant to the specific information content of each document.

The indexing change will take a while so you have time to prepare your website.

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