What Is Google’s “Mobile-First Indexing” All About
At the moment, Google has just one index of pages, used by all searchers, whether desktop or mobile. This index is based on its indexing of desktop websites. When somebody searches on Google, whether on a desktop or a mobile device, Google’s algorithm looks at its single database of indexed desktop pages, identifies the most relevant search results and puts together rankings.
Google then uses a separate crawler to collect mobile-related signals from pages to adjust the rankings accordingly for mobile searchers.
Using this single desktop index has caused a few issues for searchers. For example, many people searching on mobile will click on a search result and be taken to a page on a mobile site that features far less content than its desktop counterpart. This is a pretty poor user experience and doesn’t achieve one of Google’s main objectives – to satisfy the searcher.
The increase in searches on mobile devices meant it was inevitable that Google would have to make sure it returned search results with the most suitable content for mobile users.
So it’s not surprising that Google has started experimenting with indexing mobile pages and prioritising them over desktop pages.
This follows a significant algorithm update in April 2015, dubbed the Mobile Friendly Update (or ‘Mobilegeddon’ in the SEO industry). The update provided a ranking boost to webpages that offered a positive user experience on mobile devices.
What Does Mobile First-Indexing Mean for You?
Firstly, this isn’t a permanent update (yet). Google is just experimenting with mobile-first indexing and it could be a while before we see a full roll out.
How Google’s mobile-first indexing affects your site depends on which of these three categories it comes under:
- A single site with a responsive design
- A separate desktop site and mobile site
- A site that isn’t responsive and has no dedicated mobile site
Good news for those with responsive sites. The mobile-first indexing will not affect you because Google will still continue crawling and indexing pages that are optimised for mobile devices. If you’re not sure whether your site is responsive, simply run it through Google’s mobile-friendly auditor. A responsive site adapts pages to the device it’s being viewed on, which creates a positive user experience without the need for a separate mobile site.
If you have an unresponsive desktop site, and no mobile site, Google will still see your content but it won’t rank as well as mobile-friendly websites. Investing in a responsive design for your site is therefore important for making it mobile-friendly and ensuring it performs well in Google’s search rankings.
If you have a separate mobile site, typically under a sub-domain structure (m.yoursite.com), mobile-first indexing will affect you.
Preparing Mobile Sites for Mobile-First Indexing
If you have a dedicated mobile site, the most important thing to address is making sure its content is as comprehensive as its desktop equivalent. This will help ensure Google doesn’t deprioritize your site because your mobile site isn’t offering information that’s useful enough. Investing in a responsive design will avoid this issue because the content on your mobile and desktop sites will be the same.
In addition to optimising content, there are other actions you can take to make sure your mobile site is ready for mobile-first indexing:
- Make sure that Google can fully crawl and index pages on your mobile site. You can do this by checking it isn’t blocked in your robots.txt file and adding it individually to Google Search Console.
- Make sure mobile pages have rel=”canonical” HTML tagging that point to the corresponding desktop URL and vice versa. This will help Google’s algorithms understand separate mobile URLs.
If you’re concerned about the visibility of your website in mobile search results, contact Hallam today.