Is Your Website Ready for Google’s Mobile-First Index?
In 2016, Google announced that they were experimenting with mobile-first indexing as part of their continuing efforts to improve user experience and make their search results more useful. This meant that Google will primarily use the mobile version of your site to index and rank it on their SERPs, for searches made on both mobile and desktop.
While Google has yet to officially announce the timeline for the rollout of their mobile-first index, we have reason to believe that 2018 is the year that they would. In fact, Gary Illyes, a Google webmaster trends analyst, mentioned during the SMX Advanced Conference last June 2017 that the mobile-first index will likely be deployed in 2018.
For businesses, it’s ideal to start implementing measures to ensure that your website is ready for Google’s impending mobile-first index ASAP.
What you need to know about Google’s mobile-first index
What more do you need to know about Google’s mobile-first index? In a nutshell, here’s what to expect once it officially rolls out:
- Mobile-first doesn’t mean that desktop content will no longer be ranked by Google.
- Google’s search engine bots will look into content from mobile-friendly sites first, then desktop content second—to rank pages from that website and to understand structured data.
- If a website isn’t mobile-responsive or doesn’t have a dedicated mobile version (m.example.com), the desktop version (example.com) will still be indexed and ranked.
It’s important to note, however, that a website—whether desktop or mobile—that offers better mobile experience and usability will be ranked significantly higher than those that don’t. Thus, it’s essential to prioritize mobile-responsiveness despite the assurances that desktop sites will still rank on SERPs.
How to check if your website is mobile-friendly
Is your website mobile-friendly? If you’re not entirely sure, Google has provided a number of free tools that you can use to check the mobile-responsiveness of your website:
- To check individual pages in your site, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
- To check the status of your entire website, use the Mobile Usability Report in Webmaster Tools.
- To check the mobile and desktop speeds of your website, which is also a huge factor in mobile usability, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
How to prepare your website for Google’s mobile-first index
1. Use a Google-preferred CMS
While there are many decent content management systems (CMS) available, and you might already have built a website, it’s worth considering switching to a Google-preferred CMS—that is, a CMS that adhere to Google’s best practices for designing and creating websites.
Investing in a Google-preferred CMS also makes it easier for you to maintain your website in the long run, especially when there are more Google algorithm updates. These website builders also offer built-in features to create a mobile-optimized website (one that is seamlessly responsive to any mobile device) and to boost your site’s performance in terms of page load speed and SEO.
2. Use a responsive web design
If you haven’t already, it may be high time to consider a redesign to make your website responsive—that is, a website that automatically detects what type of device you’re using and the layout seamlessly responds to whatever screen size or resolution the website is viewed on. The basics of responsive web design include the following elements:
- Fluid elements in a grid-style design
- Proportionate and flexible widths and lengths, instead of fixed and device-specific measurements
- CSS media queries to define breakpoints
- Optimized images that are automatically scaled in response to detected screen sizes
- Collapsable mobile menus
For more information about Google’s guidelines on responsive design, check out their developer’s guide here. Additionally, be sure to consider your SEO before doing a website redesign to make sure that your rankings and performance are not compromised.
3. Make sure that your website content and markup are equivalent both on desktop and mobile
White it’s ideal to have just one version of your website that is responsive or dynamic serving for easier maintenance, there is still a small number of websites who use a dedicated mobile site, including social media giants like Facebook (m.facebook.com) and YouTube (m.youtube.com). An m.site is a lightweight version of a website that is specifically designed for mobile use. Dedicated mobile sites offer the main advantage of faster page load speeds compared to a responsive website where loading speed is sometimes compromised because all the page resources must be downloaded every time a user visits the site.
If you have a separate mobile website, it’s important to make sure that the primary content and markup are equivalent across both versions of your site. At a minimum, check the following data in your mobile site:
- Content – Content found in your desktop site—text, images, and videos—should also be present in your mobile site. Make sure that the formats are crawlable and indexable, and be sure to include alt-attributes for images.
- Metadata – Titles and meta descriptions should be equivalent on both versions of your site. If needed, you may optimize titles and descriptions for mobile to make it shorter and easier to read, but make sure that the same general information and relevant keywords are included.
- Structured data – The same structured data markup should be consistent in both desktop and mobile sites.
- Search console verification – Make sure to add and verify the mobile version of your website in Google Search Console, in addition to the desktop version.
With the increasing rate of mobile usage nowadays, Google is expected to implement more changes on their search engine algorithms to improve mobile experience—and the mobile-first index is just the beginning.google+, mobile first index, mobile-responsive design, SEO tips