In September 2016, Google announced that it would be separating its search index into separate versions. The mobile index, which will be regularly updated and a separate, secondary index for desktops.
Mobile compatibility and search results have always played an important role in how well a website ranks organically, but with Google shifting from desktop, mobile is gaining ever-growing importance. In October, Google’s Amit Singhal highlighted this even further, mentioning that over 50% of all monthly Google searches are now carried out on a mobile device.
With the ‘mobile first index’ planned for a full roll-out, expected to be sometime in 2017, it is imperative to ensure that you are not only aware of the changes but know exactly what you need to check to ensure you are not negatively impacted by one of the major Google updates in recent times.
Below are some of the key questions you should be asking:
WHAT IF MY MOBILE CONTENT DIFFERS FROM DESKTOP CONTENT?
With the mobile first index, Google will be giving priority to all mobile pages ahead of the desktop site – this means that if your mobile content differs from desktop you may see a difference in SEO performance and ranking.
Google understand that mobile content will naturally differ from the desktop version and so are providing more weighting to expandable/collapsible content. This won’t, however, solve all of your issues. Google are currently recommending sites take a responsive approach to their site – this will ultimately mean that your content will be the same across all platforms and will also mean that your pages will automatically be mobile friendly.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU DON’T HAVE A MOBILE COMPATIBLE WEBSITE?
If you’re looking at the mobile first index thinking ‘I don’t have a mobile site or a site that’s mobile friendly, how will this affect me?’, there is little need to worry, but it is still worth being cautious. If your site isn’t mobile compatible or doesn’t have any mobile pages, Google will still index your desktop site.
We recommend making your site at least mobile responsive in preparation for the switch just to be safe. Google’s Mobile Friendly Test is a great tool to identify where your site is and isn’t mobile friendly and where you can improve.
HOW MUCH WILL MY RANKINGS BE AFFECTED BY THIS?
Gary Illyes from Google has gone on record to say that there will be minimal changes to rankings, even after the mobile first index is fully rolled out. However, as with any algorithm update there may be some fluctuation near launch as Google try to iron out any kinks. Ultimately though, Google don’t want to be changing rankings with this move, they are simply updating how they index – the full impact of this though is yet to be seen.
Site speed and page load speed have always been an important factor in the SEO of any site, but with the introduction of the mobile first index it will be even more important. Mobile users expect pages to load quickly and as a result, Google reward pages and sites which are able to provide the best user experience. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) are a prime example of this.
OTHER FACTORS TO CONSIDER
Structured Data – Having structured data on your site gives the search engines have a better understanding of your website. By ensuring that both the mobile and desktop versions of your website use structured data, the knowledge graph of your website/business is improved and will mean that the mobile version of your page performs at an optimum level.
Indexability – Another key factor is to check whether both the mobile and desktop versions of your website are indexable by the search engines. Check that your robots.txt file is not blocking any pages you want picked up by Googlebot.
If you’re looking for more information on Google’s Mobile first index, Google have provided a more detailed run down on their webmaster’s blog.
If you’d like to discuss in more detail how these changes may affect your site, please do contact us.