Are you ready for Google’s mobile-first indexing?
Web searches on mobile devices are on the rise, and desktop searches have fallen. As marketers, we only need to observe our own behavior using Google on our phones to see the trend. Now, touch screen tablets are replacing laptops, and desktops collect dust in the home office while we browse from the couch.
These changes mean that almost every company with a customer-facing online content strategy must pay attention to mobile devices when planning how to reach customers. Google, with its finger always on the pulse, has responded to the rise of mobile computing with mobile-first indexing—the latest alteration to its algorithm.
Mobile-first indexing is exactly what it sounds like: a shift in how Google searches index Web pages that prioritizes mobile devices over desktops. Companies that want to leverage Google Search to expand their Web presence must be aware of how the change will affect search engine optimization.
The first step in readying your website for mobile-first indexing is to create pages that can adapt to mobile devices and desktops. Responsive and dynamic sites serve that purpose, and some companies use different URLs to separate page versions. Responsive website design uses grids instead of pixels to create content that naturally adjusts to screen size. The concept falls into the same “mobile-first” design philosophy as Google’s indexing changes. The alternative is dynamic websites, where a layer between your website’s server and the user’s screen sends a different page according to the device being used.
Google’s announcement blog about mobile-first indexing states that companies using responsive or dynamic Web pages have nothing else to fix as long as they have structured data on all their Web pages. Structured data are the bits of information added to a webpage’s source code that provide the useful at-a-glance data we see in search result blocks—e.g., company descriptions, hours, and locations. It has always been a useful tool to make sure Google sees all relevant information about a site and categorizes it properly, but now it is necessary to identify your site as a mobile version in mobile-first indexing.
To help developers assess whether their pages are up to Google’s standards, it provide two tools: the robots.txt tester to make sure your site is visible to its Web crawlers and the Structured Data Testing Tool to verify that your mobile and desktop data match. Marketers can work with their IT teams to test their sites and determine how their pages are performing.
Finally, Google recommends verifying your mobile websites even if you’ve already done so for the desktop version. As more companies go online, it becomes more of a challenge to gain the highest rankings. Site verification carries its original purpose, which is to establish what online content belongs to whom. It now underscores that your mobile site is legitimate, as well.
While desktop-only sites will still be indexed, it’s time to get a mobile strategy in place. Not only will your site perform better in Google search but also, you’ll be ready to wow the customers search engines send your way. Today’s best practices for mobile optimization and customer experience follow the same model.