The increased availability and affordability of smartphone devices, data plans and Wi-Fi hot spots mean people now turn to their mobile devices when they want answers instead of using desktop computers. In 2016, Google announced that it was experimenting with ways to adjust search results, so that they were more meaningful for mobile users. Now, Google announced it has started transitioning a select group of sites to mobile-first indexing.
What is Mobile-First Indexing?
Mobile-first indexing is Google's acknowledging that more search is being done on mobile phones than on laptop/desktop devices. Google will now use the mobile version of their search results across all devices meaning if you rank well on phones that will carry over to all other platforms. For Atlanta SEO marketers who weren't focused on mobile before, this news is a head-turner. Fortunately, Google plans to start with a handful of websites and gradually roll out this process, meaning there is still time to prepare.
How to Prepare
The good news for webmasters using responsive web design and dynamic serving is they've already prepared for this significant change. Brands whose content is different across their mobile and desktop sites should pay attention to Google's own tips on how to prepare for mobile-first indexing.
Feature High-Quality Content on Mobile Site
Mobile site design needs to move away from only featuring basic contact information and web pages. Google recommends adding the high-quality content found on desktop sites to the mobile sites as well. This will help Google find and feature valuable results in search queries.
Update Structured Data
Like sites designed for desktop users, mobile sites should have updated structured data. Invest time in updating structured data on mobile sites to help Google understand what is important and unique about the site. Mobile users will benefit when searching for specific content.
Implement Rich Metadata
Uniform metadata across desktop and mobile sites is key for brands as it helps both search engines and users gain an understanding of what the page is about and the content contained therein. Implement descriptive metadata on both mobile and desktop sites to assist Google when indexing and serving results.
Check Mobile URLs
There is no need to make changes when it comes to interlinking with separate mobile URLs. However, Google warns the existing link, rel=canonical, should remain the same, while webmasters should link rel=alternate elements between versions.
Review Regional URLs
Google recommends linking between mobile and desktop URLs separately if targeting a global market. Webmasters should check to ensure rel=hreflang is linking mobile and desktop URLs separately. Additionally, Google states hreflang should be used to link mobile URLs with other regional or language-specific mobile URLs, while desktop versions should be linked together similarly.
Evaluate Server Strength
Given Google's intention to revamp search engine results to highlight mobile sites, it stands to reason that crawl rate will increase. The search engine warns webmasters to evaluate current server strength to ensure it can withstand the potential crawl rate surge.
Start Adjusting Now
Even though Google announced the process will take time, webmasters should keep an eye on their log files to determine if their site has been chosen for mobile-first indexing. The takeaway is this: Brands shouldn't wait too long before heeding Google's advice. Though Google says mobile-first indexing is not intended to drastically alter search engine rankings, no one will truly know until the process is complete.
If you need help preparing your company’s website for Google’s mobile-first index, or if you have any other digital marketing needs, visit our website at: www.internetmarketingatlanta.org.