We’ve been waiting for this news for quite a while and it’s finally here - Google has announced mobile-first indexing. Google made the change official with an article on the Google Webmaster Central Blog on November 4th.
In the announcement, Google stated:
“To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we’re going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.”
What is changing with the mobile-first index?
As it stands at the moment, Google's ranking system typically looks at the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate its relevance to the user. Google then ranks pages based on the desktop index and even shows the searcher a snippet based on the desktop index.
With most people searching on mobile it’s understandable that the search giant decided to change to a mobile first index.
Google will continue to index on one page as it does now rather than having a separate index for website and mobile. That being said, it will now place value on mobile pages when indexing a site and determining its position on search results.
The move should not change the overall rankings, according to Gary Illyes and Paul Haahr from Google.
What does it mean to you?
You don’t have to do anything if you have a mobile responsive website, which displays the same information as desktop.
However, 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.
How to ensure your website is optimised for mobile?
- It’s advisable to run a Mobile Friendly Test and ensure your website is optimized for mobile use and your mobile performance and speed is adequate. You can refer to Google’s primary mobile guide for more information on optimization.
- You should serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version. The easiest way to check this is to run structured data tests for both URLs and compare the output, then adjust any errors that might be present, but avoid adding any markup that isn’t necessary to mobile sites.
- Is the mobile website version of your site accessible to Googlebot? This will be key for indexing so it’s worth running the text testing You can also usealso use the Fetch and Render tool in the Google Search Console. Specify the mobile:smartphone user-agent and look at the preview after the fetch and render is complete.
- If you use canonical links there is no need to do anything. Google said that “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 only verified your desktop site in Search Console, it’s time to add and verify your mobile version too.
If you only have a desktop site, Google will continue to index your desktop site just fine, even if someone is using a mobile user agent to view your site.
What if my mobile site has less content than my desktop site?
This could cause issues, potentially. With Google saying they will look at mobile version first, they may not even look at your desktop version. However, there is a silver lining. If you mobile site has a lot less content than your desktop for better usability and ease of use, you can now add it as expandable content.
We know that with desktop sites, Google said that content hidden in tabs, accordions, expandable boxes and other methods would not be weighted as high, but when it comes to mobile, this content will be given full weight. The idea is that expandable content makes sense on mobile and not so much on desktop.
How do i find out how much traffic and how many conversions i get from mobile devices?
You can find this data in your Google Analytics account. If you go to Audiences – Mobile –Overview you will be able to see how many sessions, conversions and revenue you had from mobile devices for the selected time frame. If you want a more granular view of devices click on Devices under Overview.
When will the mobile first index fully roll out?
Google has already begun testing but it looks like it will take a while for it to be fully rolled out. Stay tuned.
If your business relies on online traffic to generate revenue, you should take this update seriously.
Follow our guide above and ensure your website is well optimised for mobile then watch your site closely so you can quickly notice any shifts in rankings and traffic.