The recent announcement by Google about the next change in the web indexing system has many people wondering about the great impact this will have on SEO. Google will stop considering the desktop version of the webs as the primary source. Instead, it will take more into account the content and structure of the mobile version to the search rankings.
The change of indexation to “Mobile-first” does not mean that the sites not featuring a mobile version are going to be excluded from the search engine. It means that Google will prioritize mobile-friendly content, and if it does not exist, it will search for content on the desktop version.
Although the search index will still be unique for websites and applications, Google will use its algorithms with a priority on the mobile content of the site when classifying and ranking pages of that site.
But the question is: how will this affect your site?
Highlights of the new Google Mobile-First
These are the most relevant data of the new index:
- It will not affect webs with a responsive design or that serve mobile content dynamically with the same URL for all the devices.
- It will have more impact on websites that have an independent mobile version. In this case, we have to make sure that the content and the links of the mobile version are similar to the desktop version so that Google can index the same content prioritising the mobile version over the desktop version.
Although this change is not definitive yet, we want to give you some recommendations to help you get ready as Google moves towards an indexation system that is mobile-oriented.
As we said before, if you have a website that is responsive and where the main content for mobile and desktop are equivalents, you need not change anything. But if the content of your site is different for the mobile and desktop versions, you have to consider some changes:
First of all, check that your website is conveniently optimized for mobile. The Mobile friendly test tool is useful to verify whether the mobile version of your web fits Google standards. You can also check mistakes or aspects to improve for optimizing your mobile webpage ranking. It is also convenient to check the usability of the mobile version using the mobile usability tool report by Search Console, as well as the PageSpeed tool.
Make sure that you publish the structured data for the desktop and mobile versions. You can check and compare the structured marking for the desktop and mobile versions if you type both URLs in this Google testing tool to check the structured data. When you add the structured data to a mobile site, do not include great amounts of structured data that are not relevant for the specific content of each document.
Use the testing tool robots.txt to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Google’s robots.
Canonical tags. Sites need not make changes to their canonical tags. Google will keep using these links as guides to deliver accurate results for a user searching for content on a desktop or mobile environment.
Check your mobile version on Google Search Console. If you have only checked the desktop version of your site on Search Console, add and verify the mobile version of the site, too.
Make sure that Google is correctly receiving all the content of your mobile version. You can use the tool ‘Fetch as Google’ to check how Google sees your site.
If the mobile site has fewer contents than the desktop version, this could become a potential problem. The new index may not rank the page as efficiently as before, or it may not rank for so many keywords.
What is more, the Search Console search analysis is useful to make comparisons between devices. For example, if you go to ‘Devices’ and ‘Compare devices’, we can add the variable ‘Position’ to see a comparison between devices. This will show the average position where the desktop version is ranking as compared to the mobile version of the web. This can be used as reference to evaluate potential changes in the ranking of our website after prioritizing the mobile version in the search results.
What if I do not have a mobile version?
The Mobile-first index update will not affect sites that do not have a mobile version. For websites that are not designed for mobile, Google will index the desktop version.
However, if there is no mobile optimized version, the organic ranking will not work as efficiently.
Mobile-First index, globally
Mobile-First index has not been launched globally yet. It is being tested by some users and it might be ready soon; the international launch is expected in a few months. This has great impact on the ranking of many websites. Therefore, Google has not fully implemented it yet for all the users.
Google has not announced an official date for the implementation of Mobile-First. The search engine may include a single index, based on mobile, as we mentioned before. The possibility of including two indexes has been ruled out.
As Google will soon rank sites under the search results (both for mobile and desktop versions) based solely on the content and links of the mobile version of each web, it is crucial to make sure that the version is perfectly optimized and displays all the content of the web.
For example, the search engine will take into account the metatags (title, h1, meta description) and the loading speed of the mobile versions. Therefore, the focus will be put on scrutinizing the mobile version.
If you are thinking of developing or updating the mobile version of a web, bear in mind that from a SEO point of view the best idea is to have a responsive website. It is a lot easier to set up and maintain.
If you read down to here, you may be interested in reading more about what is the best SEO option for the mobile version.
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