Traditionally majority of users were surfing the internet using their Desktops and Laptops but in the last 5 years this has changed. There are a growing number of people who prefer to use their mobile devices including Tablets and Smartphones to access the internet and conduct searches on major search engines.
To put things into perspective here are some facts and numbers;
- BrightEdge recently reported 57% of traffic for its clients across a variety of industries in the US is now coming from mobile devices i.e. Smartphones and Tablets.
- According to Business Insider, Mobile now makes up more than 60% of Australia’s online traffic.
- Mobile devices have been preferred by users over Desktops for conducting online searches since 2015. In other words, a larger percentage of users are now using mobile devices to access search engines and conduct online searches.
What is Mobile First Indexing?
Google has decided to experiment with using content from Mobile versions of a website to create an Index and subsequently provide a ranking to a particular website. Traditionally Google has relied on Desktop versions to create its Index but it feels that this may not be the best solution or appropriate moving forward given the recent shift in consumer preferences in terms of devices being used for browsing the internet in general and conducting searches in particular.
Why has Google decided to make the move?
- To make results more useful and relevant.
- To enhance user-experience.
What does it mean for businesses with websites?
- No further action is required by businesses that have a responsive web design or a dynamic website with similar primary content and markup across Desktop and Mobiles.
- For businesses who have still not invested in a mobile responsive website then Google will continue to use the Desktop version as the primary source for indexing purposes.
- If you have a website that serves different content across Mobile devices and Desktops then you will need to make adjustments especially if you are serving lesser content on your Mobile website. This may lead to a drop in rankings. Google recommends that you use the Responsive Web Design Approach while developing your website as this will essentially mean the same content is being served across devices.
What factors/ranking signals will be used by Google to provide a ranking?
Google will use Mobile based signals to provide a rank to your website. Although the factors/signals it uses as such won’t change, the primary device view it uses to assess the rankings will change. Some of these factors include;
Mobile loading page speed.
- Content including H1, H2 and H3 headings.
- Inclusion of Structured data.
- Meta Information of a page.
- Presence of AMP pages (Not a ranking signal as yet but can affect User Experience)
What is the launch date?
There is no fixed date at the moment as Google is still developing this new feature.
Some steps you can take from a Search Engine Optimisation point of view to ensure your website is ready for the Mobile First Index,
- Use Responsive Web Design– Responsive web design as the name suggests is an approach to web design that ensures websites and web applications to respond to the device it is being viewed on. This means that the same website can be viewed on different devices such as Desktops, Tablets and Smartphones without compromising on user-experience. A website based on the concept of responsive web design takes into account, flexible grids, images and media queries in order to provide a seamless experience to the user.
- Test your Mobile Page Load Speed– Not a direct ranking factor but has a direct impact on the overall user experience. Mobile Friendly Test from Google is a good starting point. At the end of the test you will be provided a score for the Mobile and Desktop load speeds along with recommendations. Work with your web developer with the aim of maximising this score.
- Ensure the Content across Mobiles and Desktops is the same– If you are serving a different version of your website to Mobile users (m.yourwebsite.com) and Desktop users especially with lesser content for the Mobile version then you will need to make adjustments in order to keep your SEO rankings in place.
- Enable Schema Markup for your Mobile Website– Schema Markup is a code or a vocabulary of tags that sits behind a webpage and provides search engines information about the context of a webpage. Schema actually makes it easier for search engines to interpret the information about a webpage and thus provides intelligent content to the user. If you are using Responsive Web Design and already have Schema activated then no further steps are required but if you have a separate Mobile website (m.yourwebsite.com) then you will need to make sure that each page has Schema activated. Google recommends only marking up content that is necessary rather than everything. The Structured Data Testing Tool is recommended to conduct this test. Simply add both the URL versions of your website to undertake the test.
- Undertake Robots.txt Test– If you have a separate Mobile version (m.yourwebsite.com), please make sure that this version is accessible to Googlebot. This can be done using the robots.txt test.
- Submit Mobile Site through Search Console– Once again if you are running two separate versions of the website (m.yourwebsite.com) then you will need to add both the websites separately through the Search Console. This can be done by simply creating sitemaps for both the versions of the website.