Mobile-First Indexing: Beyond the Marketing Minute
What Is Indexing?
Think of a search engine index as a large database where all webpages are stored. When a new site is launched, all its pages must be added to the index so search engine spiders can crawl them, contextualize them and rank them fairly in search results.
Before mobile devices had online capabilities, desktop pages were considered the primary version of a website. Since most people visited websites on a desktop, most companies put all their design and development efforts into those pages. Google’s main goal is to provide the best user experience, which is why they were indexing desktop pages before mobile pages.
Why Did Google Change to Mobile-First Indexing?
Since mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic across the board in 2018, many companies are investing more resources in the mobile user experience. Just like many businesses, Google decided that mobile pages needed to be prioritized. Now when someone performs a search in Google, search engine spiders will reference the mobile index before the desktop version to evaluate pages’ relevance for each user.
What Does This Mean?
This means the mobile experience, and your mobile website, is more important than ever. Your mobile site is the baseline for how Google determines your website rank. If you have a responsive or dynamic serving site design (content and markup is equivalent between desktop and mobile), you won’t have to change anything. However, if you have a separate domain for mobile users, you have more work ahead of you.
In addition to optimizing for page speed, you should ensure your site delivers the best user experience, since Google is serving this as the primary version of your page.
What Can I Do?
We recommend developing a responsive site design, which has many advantages:
- A single URL makes it easier to share and link your content.
- It helps Google’s algorithms accurately assign indexing properties.
- Less time is spent managing multiple pages with the same content.
- It saves your crawl budget resources.
If you have a site configuration where the content and markup is different between your desktop and mobile sites (i.e., it’s unresponsive), Google released a few best practices to help you comply with mobile-first indexing:
- Serve structured markup for both desktop and mobile versions.
- Verify the equivalence of your structured markup between both platforms by typing each URL into Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
- When adding structured data to a mobile site, avoid adding large amounts of markup that isn’t relevant.
- Use Google’s robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot.
- Add and verify the mobile version of your site to Google Search Console. (We recommend doing this in Bing Webmaster Tools as well.)
Follow these recommendations, in addition to the tips in our Monday Marketing Minute video, to provide the best mobile user experience.
What if I don’t have a mobile site?
No worries. Google will continue to index your desktop site.
What if the mobile version of my site isn’t ready?
Don’t launch a mobile version of your site for the sake of having it indexed. Google recommends you hold off on launching a mobile site until it’s ready. It’s better to have a functional desktop site than an incomplete mobile version in the index.
Is my website mobile-friendly?
For a quick assessment, run a simple mobile-friendly test with Google’s tools.
Can I see what my mobile website looks like, on my desktop?
Since most of the website design and development happens on a desktop, it helps to see, from a desktop, how your website looks on a mobile device. If your website uses responsive design, you can make your browser window narrow to simulate the size of a mobile device. For Chrome users, right click, click on “Inspect” and click on the “toggle device toolbar” icon in the upper left-hand corner of the developer tools sidebar.
Need a Hand?
If you need help with your mobile site or want to create a dynamic site to make management easier, contact us today, and let us see how we can help.