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Google has long recognized that more and more Internet searches are being completed on mobile devices. The growth and market dominance of the smart phone and proliferation of tablets have shifted the way consumers get their information. As Google continues to try to provide the best search engine results possible they have determined that if most people are searching on mobile devices then they should rank sites that perform better on mobile higher than those that haven’t come around to the mobile mindset yet.
This had been discussed by Google in 2015 and the company had even published a position stating:
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.
In December of 2016 there was an announcement where Google confirmed that it had rolled out the mobile-first index “for a handful of sites” and said the search team was closely monitoring those sites for testing purposes. Early in 2017 many industry observers felt that Google made the shift and began to index off of the performance of a site’s mobile version rather than a desktop view.
What does this mean to you?
We have been advising clients for a while that when building a site or redesigning an existing site that the design, navigation, call-to-action and interaction should be designed with the mobile site first. Too many times we find the site was designed with the desktop in mind and then the mobile version is looked at almost as an after thought. We totally understand the big change in mindset that has to occur. We loved the design of our website on the desktop and had to make some key decisions and even let some things go when we made sure our responsive design was performing well in a mobile environment. We still have some items that aren’t quite there and are building the base for version 2.0 of our site to be even better situated for the mobile future of web.
You should be doing the same thing with your website. Take a look at your site on your smart phone. Does it load quickly? Can you get to the navigation and menus easily? Is all of the key content about your business there and tagged so that Google can index it? Can a prospective customer complete a form or send an inquiry with their phone?
If these things aren’t in place then be assured that Google will notice. And if your competition is doing it better than you then they have a chance to be ranked higher in the search engine results pages…especially if the searcher is doing so on a mobile device.
Search Engine Land posted the topic “Google offers advice on how to get ready for the mobile-first index” and included a bulleted list of things that you can do to be better prepared for this shuffling of the index. This list can be a bit technical so if you’re not the one creating the site be sure to pass it along to your webmaster and follow-up to see how you’re doing once you’ve both read it.
Here are some additional recommendations that Search Engine Land reported that Google is giving webmasters to prepare for the change:
- If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything.
- If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site.
- Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version. Sites can verify the equivalence of their structured markup across desktop and mobile by typing the URLs of both versions into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing the output.
- When adding structured data to a 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 verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot.
- Sites do not have to make changes to their canonical links; we’ll continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile.
- If you are a site owner who has only verified your desktop site in Search Console, please add and verify your mobile version.
Are you comfortable creating best practices for your website?
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