For the past six months, SEO world has been in buzz after Google announced that soon they would launch their Mobile First Index update. In November when Google first began to test the mobile-first index, many SEOs and webmasters have been thinking – is it live or not yet? The answer is no, Google’s mobile first index is not live yet.
The update is still in testing phase and is not live yet. However, hoax keeps originating from different sources, and they all say differently about it. It is quite possible that you might get lost in these hoaxes and take a wrong stance. Therefore I have compiled everything you need to know about the mobile first index in this post so that you will have a comprehensive information and not fall prey to vague rumors.
What is Google’s Mobile-First Indexing?
Currently, when Google indexes a site, it looks at the desktop version of it first and decides the ranking mobile and desktop site ranking according to the desktop site.
With mobile first indexing, Google will completely reverse the way it indexes a site now. It will first index the mobile version of the site and decide the mobile and desktop ranking on the basis of the mobile site.
That means the overall ranking of your site will be decided on the basis of how efficient is your mobile version of the site.
What’s the current status of the update?
Currently, it is not possible to tell an exact date for the release of the update as Google has still not provided any official release date. One thing we can say is the update is still in testing phase and not live yet.
According to what I have read about the update till now, it seems that it will still take months to get live as Google wants to test it very comprehensively and leave no space for lags.
Perhaps, we can expect the update to get live by the second half or by the end of 2017.
Why Google has to go for Mobile First Index?
Back in 2015 when Google announced that more searches on its platform occur on mobile devices than desktops, it was clear that Google is going to ignore these statistics. It will come up with something that will focus on improving the mobile UX.
Mobile first index is no surprise when we consider the dominance of mobile users on Google search engine.
As mobile experience is considered, currently, sites provide a very low-quality experience to the mobile users. They solely focus on making the desktop experience fantastic. That is, sites fail to provide equally awesome experience on mobile devices as on the desktop.
The situation is less thin on responsive sites, while it is significantly bad in sites using Dynamic serving and Separate URLs for mobile.
How would you comply with Mobile First Index?
Check the content on your site
Check your mobile version of the site and tell if the content from the desktop version is also accessible on the mobile version?
Earlier when you wanted to go for responsive pages, you had to have some contents on mobile version removed to make the page look user-friendly on the mobile. However, now you should change this approach by finding ways to show the content on both the versions with higher user friendliness.
As Google will index only the mobile version of the site, it would not be wise to omit any content on mobile that is there on the desktop version of the same.
You have to serve the content of desktop with best possible way on mobile versions too so that you won’t have to sacrifice the user experience to show the desktop content on mobile.
Check the site speed
Site loading speed is already one of the 200 signals Google uses to rank the sites in its SERPs. However, when mobile first index would be live, Google will more vibrantly look at the mobile site speed.
With a necessary requirement to show desktop contents on mobile devices, it becomes really tough to maintain the page load speed on mobile sites. Especially when mobiles are not connected to a WiFi, cellular data might not be sufficiently fast enough. In this situation, you will have to regularly check your site speed and do whatever it takes to make it fast.
If your site takes more than 3 seconds to load, I would suggest you go for a serious page load optimization and find out why your site is slow.
Check the internal linking
When sites use dynamic serving or separate URLs for mobile versions, maintaining the internal link equity becomes real tough. In such sites, there is a huge difference between internal linking of mobile and desktop version. This difference in internal linking causes bad user experience for mobile visitors as they cannot easily find the content in the mobile version which was easily found on the desktop version of the same.
It makes two different site structure which confuses the Google’s bots while crawling the mobile sites. If your mobile site interlinking is not closely same as the desktop, it degrades the internal link equity throughout the site and drops your SERP ranking.
Check the Structured data on mobile
Currently, the site structured data can be easily found on the desktop version of the site. Therefore we do not keep this data on the mobile versions. However, when Google starts its mobile first indexing and indexes your mobile site only, it would be so important to make the structured data available on the mobile. After the mobile first index is live, Google will start looking for structured data on mobile version only, and if not found it will treat it as not available even if you have it on the desktop version.
So start moving the structured data on you mobile site now. You can use Google’s structured data testing tool to verify if both the sites have same data.
What does Google recommend?
With the announcement of the mobile first indexing, Google also released a set of recommendations to the site owners. These recommendations will help your SEO Partner prepare a mobile-focused plan to comply with the update.
- If your site is responsive or uses dynamic serving where the primary content and markup is same across mobile and desktop version, you won’t have to change anything.
- If your site configuration is not set to serve equivalent primary content and markup across mobile and desktop versions, you will have to make some changes to your site.
- Serve equivalent structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version.
- When adding the structured data to your mobile site, avoid adding large amounts of markup that isn’t relevant to the
- specific information content of each document.
- Use the robots.txt testing tool to check if your mobile site is accessible to the Google-bot.
- You will not have to change the canonical links. As Google will continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile.
- If you have only verified your desktop site in Search Console, you should add and verify your mobile version too.
- If you only have a desktop site, Google will continue to index your desktop site only, even if it is using a mobile user agent to view your site.
Caution: If you are developing a mobile version of your site, keep in mind that a functional desktop-oriented site is better than a broken or incomplete mobile site. It’s better to build your mobile site and launch it finally when it’s completely ready.
Final words to conclude
Mobile first index is not live yet. It might take months to get the update live but will surely hit the floor anytime in the upcoming months. It’s better to stay prepared as it is going to a massive change in the way Google has been indexing your site till now. To make sure you are not negatively hit by the update, make the user experience on both the mobile and desktop similar. Ask your SEO expert to check and test your site on basis of recommendations given by Google and prepare a course of action needed accordingly.
Author Bio: Ethan Roy, a technical content writer by Profession. With years of experience on various eCommerce platforms (Magento, PrestaShop, OpenCart, Shopify), he has a lot to share with the readers. Currently working as Technical Content Writer at Velsof.