As mobile continues to dominate the online search arena, Google has taken notice. As more and more search queries are performed from mobile devices, Google’s transition to mobile-first indexing aims to provide the most relevant results possible for this growing segment, regardless of the device they are using. This paramount announcement was the first time that Google has verified that a large number of sites would begin transitioning into the mobile-first indexing system.
In the past, Google would use the desktop version of a website in order to determine where their content should rank. Unfortunately, this would create a less than optimal browsing experience for mobile users because many of the top websites had mobile versions that were poorly developed or not optimized for mobile at all. By implementing mobile-first indexing, Google can ensure that search results are optimized for not only mobile browsers but desktop browsers as well.
Determining whether or not your website is included in the first wave of the indexing process is easily achieved by visiting your Google Search Console. If it is part of the initial migration, you will find a message stating that your website may begin seeing more traffic from Googlebot Smartphone as well as a notification that your search results snippets will be generated from the mobile version of your website. Google has verified it will also be showing the mobile version of pages in the search results as well as cached Google pages.
Mobile-first indexing and crawling are performed primarily by using the smartphone agent; however, search results will still be shown by the URL that is most relevant to users in the search result whether they are using a mobile device or a desktop computer. This transition will be implemented slowly to ensure the best user and webmaster experience possible as each site is individually tested for its adherence to Google’s best practices for mobile-first indexing. These best practices when dealing with separate mobile and desktop website versions include:
- Website Consistency – If you are still separating the mobile version of your website from the desktop version as two separate entities, there’s a good chance that your content isn’t consistent between them. If you aren’t ready to invest in transitioning to a responsive web design, make sure your mobile content is updated to match the desktop version as closely as possible.
- Structured Data and Metadata Considerations – It is important to make sure that the URLs present in your mobile website’s structured data are updated to be mobile URLs. It is important to ensure you are maintaining consistency and actively checking for extraction errors. Like structured data concerns, it is important to make sure that your title tags and meta descriptions of your mobile website are exact equivalents with the desktop version of your site.
- Search Console Verification – If you have separate website versions, it is important to ensure that both have been verified in the search console to receive data and messages pertaining to each version. If your site becomes a candidate for mobile-first indexing there’s a chance you will experience a large data shift.
If you already have a responsive website design, your desktop and mobile versions of your website should scale to match the device being used and remain the same. In this instance, all of your content should be consistent without the need to create a separate mobile version of your website. This strategy is recommended by Google because it allows a single version of the website to be crawled by the Googlebot Smartphone.
Now that mobile-first indexing is being rolled out more widely, there are still no clear implications that this will provide a ranking advantage by implementation alone; however, having fast loading, mobile-friendly content will ultimately improve user experiences with your website and potentially improve your search engine ranking. Remember, Google uses many different ranking factors to determine which content is most relevant for users. If your content isn’t performing properly because it isn’t optimized for mobile, there’s a good chance it isn’t going to be considered the most relevant option.
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