In case you are not aware, Google is rolling out a ‘mobile-first’ index.
This basically means that the mobile version of your website will be used for indexing, hence determine your search rankings.
Search Ranking? Mobile-first? Wondering what this is? No worries. In this post, we will review how Google’s indexing works, take look at what “mobile-first” indexing is and how it differs from the current (desktop) indexing, as well as, share recommendations on how to prepare for it.
How search ranking currently works.
Google’s index comprises an alphabetical and numerical listing of page items, including: titles, terms, words and links with references to the pages. This covers every live website on the web, so, as you can imagine, the index must be mind-boggingly BIG!.
The position of your web page in a search depends on its PageRank. This is the algorithm used by Google to rank websites, named after Larry Page, one of its founders, and scored on a scale of 0 to 10. Basically, score attained depends on the importance or trust worthiness of your page.
The complex PageRank algorithm takes several factors into consideration, including ‘Quality of Content’ and ‘Page Linking’. Quality of content of your page comprises frequency of updates (freshness), correct use of metadata, including: Title, Description, Keywords and correct use of ‘alt’ tags for multimedia (photos, video, audio), while Page Linking looks at the quantity and quality of links to the page.
Up until recently, indexing has used the desktop version of websites.
What is “mobile-first” and how does it differ?
What is mobile-first? Well, today, users are relying on mobile devices for the majority of their online activities; including browsing web pages. To reflect this change in user behaviour, Google is in the process of rolling out a “mobile-first” index, which will use the mobile version of your website in its indexing. Yes! The mobile version of your site will be visited by Google’s web crawlers instead of your desktop version.
This “mobile-first” indexing, which has already been rolled out to some users, is a big deal because, although Google has previously updated the search algorithm (in 2015 and 2016) to reward mobile-friendly sites, search rankings were never drastically affected. This indexing method, however, can have a massive effect on SEO and webmasters – Don’t panic, yet! 🙂
In fact, “mobile-first” indexing, is still not expected to affect the rankings of mobile-friendly websites that follow SEO best practices. It will, however, come into play if your mobile and desktop sites are significantly different.
Is your website optimised for mobile? If yes, good on you. Otherwise (Panic now, Joke!), to ensure that your website is ready, it is recommended that you take the following actions outlined below.
How to ensure your website is ready
The following actions will help ensure your website is optimised for mobile experience:
1. Ensure your site is Responsive (mobile-compliant)
Make sure you have a fully functioning version of your website. As this is no longer expensive to implement, use a responsive design, which adapts to fit any device used to access it. If you are, however, still using a separate mobile site, ensure that it offers a similar experience to your desktop version.
2. Optimise your mobile UI
Optimise your mobile User Interface (UI) and test all changes on your mobile device rather than your desktop version to ensure it displays as expected. Tweak for User Experience (UX) so that mobile users have a good experience when browsing your website on their devices.
3. Improve your mobile loading speed.
Test and optimise your site for load speed on mobile devices. This aspect may require the most attention from webmasters as, currently, there is usually a significant difference between desktop and mobile load times. Aim to, iteratively, optimise your site’s mobile version to load as fast as it possibly can, because, as with desktop versions, users will leave a slow loading site.
4. Use Google’s testing tool:
Use Google’s test tool to perform a mobile website speed test, receive recommendations to improve website performance across all devices and continue to tweak until results are satisfactory.
In response to changing user trends, and in order to make the web a better place, Google is rolling out a ‘mobile-first’ index, which means that the mobile version of your website will be used for indexing.
Although it is not expected to affect mobile-friendly sites that are following SEO best practices, search rankings for websites whose mobile versions are significantly different to their desktop versions, can be affected detrimentally.
To avoid this, some recommendations have been made to ensure that your website is prepared for the “mobile-first” indexing.
Is your website ready? Are there other recommendations to consider? Share your thoughts.