We all knew it was coming, it was only a matter of time before Google officially announced mobile-first indexing. This means that Google will first look at the mobile version of a website for its various ranking markers. If a site doesn’t have a mobile version, then it will look at the site’s desktop version.
Why is this change needed?
The change comes from Google hearing feedback for quite some time. From a user’s perspective, it will make mobile searches much more efficient and useful. Google gets more searches from mobile devices than desktop on a daily basis, but the ranking system only looks at the desktop version of content to decide if it is relevant to the user’s search. If the mobile version of the site has less content than the desktop page, then the mobile user may not get the information they are looking for. Currently, while Google searches are mobile the actual index is desktop, and this change will align indexing with many user’s primary search device.
Why it matters to you
Based off of the information we’ve gotten from Google thus far it appears the SEO landscape will change drastically. However, we don’t know to what extent at this point. Google searches are highly dependent on content and links. Given that mobile versions often have less content and fewer links, we can safely assume SEO changes are coming. For now, there will be two indexing types: desktop and mobile. Eventually, however, there will only be one: mobile. So what we know for sure is that Google will start to build new factors when evaluating relevance and ranking authority.
What do you need to do?
You can use these tips from Google to increase your mobile rankings:
- If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site.
- Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version.
- Sites can verify the equivalence of their 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.
- Use the robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot.
- Sites do not have to make changes to their canonical links; we’ll continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile.
- If you are a site owner who has only verified their desktop site in Search Console, please add and verify your mobile version.
- 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.
- If you are building a mobile version of your site, keep in mind that a functional desktop-oriented site can be better than a broken or incomplete mobile version of the site. It’s better for you to build up your mobile site and launch it when ready.
What is timeline for this?
It is still in testing mode, but this change will be rolled out soon, though a set date hasn’t been specified by Google. They have stated that it will be slow, so you will not see a drastic drop/raise in your rankings at this time.
Have questions, or need assistance making the changes listed above? Contact us, we’d love to help!