March 30, 2018

What Google's Mobile First Index Means for Your SEO Campaign

Published: 30 March 2018 

Google is going through a metamorphosis just like its internet users. As people have moved from using desktop PCs to smartphones and tablets while sitting in a café sipping a latte, Google has recognised that over 50% of its users now access websites from a mobile device.

This has caused a shift to their search strategy from a desktop first approach, where the desktop version of a site was considered the main one and indexed first, to a gradual shift to a mobile-first mindset.

What is Mobile-First Indexing?

Google’s Mobile-First indexing follows the practice that the search engine will index the mobile version of a site first and consider that the main version. The desktop version is also considered and will be a priority when there is no identifiable mobile version. With the Mobile-First approach, the mobile version gets first dibs.

When is a Full Roll Out of Mobile Indexing Happening?

Google is shifting to a Mobile-First approach in 2018. This will initially be applied to significant websites and is currently still being tested to see how the search index and future search results will be affected by the changes.

Following a successful rollout and further testing, it’s anticipated that Google will go much wider with their Mobile-First strategy, including all kinds of websites and fundamentally change both mobile indexing and the display of content for user searches in the future.

How Mobile-First Indexing Influences and Impacts SEO

The shift to Google’s Mobile-First approach could result in making major mistakes in the implementation, losing ranking position and organic traffic.

When it comes it SEO and mobile SEO especially, the landscape is shifting under the feet of the SEO community. Client sites with responsive designs that adjust automatically for smaller screen sizes are largely immune from the effects of a Mobile-First approach.

However, for websites which have distinct sites for mobile users and a second one for desktop, it is a good idea to consider the implications of the imminent change in how mobile sites will be treated. When mobile becomes the priority site to index, the content is provided to mobile visitors will affect how the website is viewed overall.

When considering SEO, mobile should be accepted as the new primary site and not the other way around. Everything from the content to how it appears on a smaller screen size should be considered. For instance, the sidebar on a WordPress site often falls to the bottom with limited width designs, consequently changing the user experience for visitors on mobile who don’t see a good chunk of the site’s content or features.

How to Optimise for Mobile-First Indexing

Optimising for the Mobile-First change requires careful considerations for website owners, webmasters, and SEO agencies alike.

For instance, content that may have been truncated with the removal of video clips or images for mobile pages to load faster must go back onto the page. If the content is missing from a mobile site version, then it may not show up in the index at all for searchers to find.

Any structured data that helps Google understand the page and display it appropriately on a web page must be present for mobile versions otherwise relevance is lost. Adding in social metadata for a mobile site and ensuring the mobile version is added to Google Console are other actions that may need to be taken. A sitemap should capture all relevant mobile-ready pages and be different to the sitemap for the desktop version of the site if necessary. Updating the Robots.txt file to reflect the changes on a mobile site is also important too.

This can be a substantial task for small companies to administer, particularly for ones that have two website versions: one for mobile and one for desktop. The good news is the experts at Matter Solutions can manage the switch to a Mobile-First strategy ensuring the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. Whether running two site versions or a responsive single site under one domain, using a specialist to work through the technical issues, SEO, and design changes necessary removes the headache.

Contact us to find out more about how Matter Solutions can help you.


Ben Maden

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