How Google's Mobile First Indexing Update Impacts Your SEO Strategy

Early last year Google announced that they were rolling out mobile-first indexing, which would essentially favour sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing. Prior to this, their crawling, indexing, and ranking systems had used the desktop version of a page's content, which led to a few issues for mobile searchers, given desktop versions were often vastly different from the mobile version.

Mobile-first indexing is the latest in a series of shifts by Google over the last few years to make their services more mobile friendly -- anyone remember mobilegeddon? This new mobile-first indexing means that Google will now use the mobile version of the web page for indexing and ranking, to better help users find whatever it is they are looking for.

There are now over 5 billion people on the planet with mobile devices, half of those are smartphones, and of all internet users, 52 per cent are on mobile, with 43 per cent on laptops or desktops and 4 per cent on tablets. Considering the domination of mobile internet usage and the fact that half the worlds population now has a mobile, it's not at all surprising that Google continues to move in a mobile-first direction and it's safe to assume this theme is indicative of their focus moving forward.

Mobile first is a win-win for all, once you understand how this impacts your SEO.

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Yes, that's right. While these changes are positive for everyone in the long-run, they can be a bit of a minefield for businesses to navigate. All of these changes require a shift in strategy, including how SEO is approached, through to how the website is built.

Organisations with sites that use responsive web design or dynamic serving are typically going to be set up for mobile-first indexing, but Google will prefer AMP web pages.

Of course, this should be checked, but chances are you're in the clear if you fall into this category.

What You Need to Know

Mobile-first indexing is about how content is gathered, not how it is ranked. So, unlike the major changes in 2015, Google says that sites that aren't migrated in this way will not be punished in rankings. However, it is essential to be aware that Google still favours mobile-friendly sites; this 100% determines how a site ranks. Therefore, if you have a separate mobile site, it is worth checking the following to ensure it is ready for the mobile-first index, as well as being mobile-friendly:

Content

Mobile versions need to have all the same high-quality, valuable content that currently lives on the desktop site. This includes text, videos and images. The formats used on the mobile version must be crawlable and indexable; this includes alt-attributes for images.

Structured data

The structured data markup needs to be the same for both mobile and desktop versions of a site. When showing URLs within structured data on mobile pages, organisations need to make sure that these are a mobile version of the URL.

Metadata

Titles and meta descriptions need to be equivalent on both versions of all web pages. These don't need to be identical, as mobile titles may have shorter character counts for optimisation, but the information needs to be the same.

Social metadata

As above, all social metadata needs to be included on both the desktop and mobile versions of the site.

XML and media sitemaps

Links to sitemaps need to be accessible from the mobile version of the site, as well as the desktop version. This includes robots directives, and trust signals, such as links to a companies privacy policy page.

Search Console verification

The mobile version of the site needs to be added and verified in the Google Search Console, just as would have been done for the desktop version.

Server capacity

For sites that have their mobile version on a separate host, they must ensure that the host servers can handle an increased crawl rate.

Confused? Fair enough. Even those of us who spend all day following the ever moving bar that Google puts in place can occasionally have a tough time keeping up.

The situation is this. Mobile-indexing has begun rolling out and will continue to roll out more broadly over time. This won't impact ranking and has nothing to do with the mobile-friendly assessment, but it is fair to assume that it is an indication of a more aggressive mobile-first move. Therefore it's a good opportunity to ensure your site is mobile-friendly, which will have a significant impact on performing better in mobile search results, increasing site visitors and conversion. Something we can all get excited about.

Mobile-Friendly SEO

Having fast-loading content is still a surefire way to perform better for mobile and desktop users. As always, ranking uses many factors. Google may, in some case, show content to users that’s not mobile-friendly or is slow loading, in the event that their numerous other signals determine it is the most relevant content to show. With that in mind, the best strategy is to stick to the basics when it comes to SEO. These are:

  • Website design and ease of use
  • Quality content
  • On-site optimisation
  • Backlinks
  • SEO monitoring

As SEO becomes all the more complicated to navigate, it's important to identify SEO agencies that know what they're doing and have a proven track record wading through the muck that is Google iterations.

If you are unaware of the mobile-first indexing changes, aren't sure where to start with them or generally need an SEO agency to help you get more traffic, more leads and an increase in sales and revenue, it's time to get in touch with Blue Beetle. We are an SEO and digital agency in Dubai, working with our clients to help navigate Google mobile first indexing, and guiding them on how to improve search ranking.

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