This month Google made a major announcement on the future of search and stated it would break away from the traditional desktop search index (aka database of websites and blogs) and move to a mobile-first search index.
Google indicated this shift was coming at industry conferences, but made the change official with an article on the Google Webmaster Central Blog on November 4th. In the announcement Google stated:
To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we’re going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.
Make no mistake, this is a major change and something website owners and bloggers need to understand and react to if warranted.
We are in a changing world and as technology adapts, so does users and as a result technology providers.
Top Questions and Answers About Google’s Mobile-First Indexing and How It Can Alter Your SEO Efforts
Why is Google doing this?
Because mobile search has taken over desktop and today more people access Google via their phones than on desktop computers. Therefore it makes sense that mobile becomes the dominant index.
Does this mean my website has to be designed and coded as mobile-first?
No not all. But it does mean you want to make sure the mobile version of your website presents the same content as the traditional desktop version.
Do I have to do anything if I have a mobile responsive website?
If your website (or WordPress theme) is already coded as mobile responsive and you are displaying the same information on both, you do not need to do anything. You are good go assuming your mobile performance and speed is adequate. If your website strips out a bunch of content on responsive views, you have some challenges ahead and you’ll want to get this resolved.
What if I have an older desktop website and a separate mobile website?
- Make sure your mobile site does not limit the content it displays. This is a pet peeve of mine and I absolutely hate when I access a large brand’s website from my phone and I have virtually no data available.
- Make sure your desktop and mobile websites both use structured data.
- Make sure your mobile site is accessible by the Googlebot and not blocked by a robot.txt file.
- Submit and verify both mobile and desktop websites to Google’s Search Console.
What if I only have a desktop website?
Google states you are ok, but I consider this as a false sense of security for website owners. If Google is positioning mobile as the dominant version and search authority, then your desktop version will struggle competing with a competitor’s mobile version. You need to get your website updated and you need to make sure you are well positioned for mobile users.
What if I have an old WordPress website that is using a mobile plugin?
Be careful, very very careful. That mobile plugin is probably stripping out a lot of content and only displaying the bare minimums. This means Google will be indexing your website on that very limited content. That is scary and warrants a quick update to a mobile responsive WordPress theme.
What if I have a mobile website and a separate desktop website, but I’m only building links into the desktop version?
That is a great question. And according to The SEM Post, Google has not made a clear response to that question. It could very well alter your ranking since SEO success is a direct result of link building into specific URLs. If it were me, I would work quickly to get a mobile responsive website.
Wrap Up Summary
If you are a small business owner who has ignored mobile considerations, you cannot do so any longer. You have to accept mobile users as your dominant visitors and you need to make sure your website performs well for them.
If you have a mobile website that is separate from your desktop version, make sure you’ve followed the steps above and you get all your ducks in a row quickly. Then watch closely so you quickly notice any shifts in search ranking and traffic. I would also revisit mobile only websites and view them with a fresh set of eyes. Are they truly offering the best possible user experience? If not, then quickly work to make sure this user experience is enhanced or you might find that you have very little users to serve.
If this notice sends you into a tailspin and a redesign is in order for your business, we’d be happy to help. We specialize in SEO friendly website design and WordPress development. Just reach out and we’ll help get you ready for a mobile dominated world.