Google has spoken, and the message is loud and clear – the online goliath is gearing up to apply mobile-first indexing to all websites within the next 6 to 12 months. Mobile-first hit the scene back in November of 2016, and by the end of 2018, half of all Google’s search results were generated by this mobile-first approach. Google is obviously moving forward with dispatch, and this could have important implications for your business’s website.
Mobile-first indexing isn’t as complicated as it may sound – it’s simply a Google-y way of saying that it will be indexing and ranking your site from the perspective of a mobile browser. This means that your website needs to be mobile-ready if you want to compete (and you do want to compete).
Google Gives Notice
In order to keep this effort moving forward as smoothly as possible, Google is issuing notices that let website owners know that change is afoot and that reference any issues detected. As more and more users move their online searches to their mobile devices, Google intends to keep up by improving user experience. The Google notification then lists any errors or issues found that might prevent the site from performing optimally.
In this proactive move, Google is putting us all on notice that change is on the way. Change, however, is business as usual when it comes to online marketing, and staying at the head of the pack should remain your goal.
What Do We Know?
As with most new waves in tech, website proprietors have questions. Regarding the mobile-first indexing rollout, we’ve gleaned the following:
- The Mobile-first index is not a separate index. Instead, it is the primary index for purposes of ranking. This means that the URL of your site’s mobile-friendly version needs to be in tip-top shape.
- This switch is not an either/or proposition that you can opt-in or out of. This change is coming, but there is no way of knowing when your site will be affected. Being well-prepared is key.
- Mobile-first indexing is enabled for Websites published since July 2019 by default, and owners won’t be notified that their sites are mobile-first ready.
- It’s critical that you provide the same experience on both mobile and desktop devices. While this is a complicated matter, working closely with a digital marketing expert will help ensure that you smoothly transition into this position. The basics include keeping your content the same across platforms, using identical headings, structuring data the same way for both versions, and not scrimping on content in your mobile version. Any one of these could lead to a drop in traffic.
- Mobile usability is utterly separate from mobile-first indexing, and it’s critical that you understand this distinction. In other words, Google’s mobile usability test (or report in Search Console) is in no way indicative that your website is ready for the big league (mobile-first indexing). This is best explained by the fact that mobile-first indexing requires neither mobile-friendliness nor layouts that are mobile responsive. If your pages work on a mobile device, they’re ready for indexing, but if they aren’t user friendly, you can kiss your favorable rank goodbye.
Google also shares best practices for mobile-first indexing, and while these don’t provide much in the way of new information, they do amount to great practices when it comes to good housekeeping. For example:
- Make sure that Google can crawl your online offerings
- Make sure that you use the same metadata on both your desktop and mobile sites
- Make sure your ads don’t equate to an inferior experience for mobile users
- Only use high-quality images on your mobile site
- Make sure your format supports images and videos and that any videos used are easy to find and view
Google also provides best practices for your separate URLs, and the highlights include:
- Make sure your desktop pages have mobile-page equivalents
- Keep your error page status consistent across platforms
- Avoid including fragment URLs in your mobile site
- Verify both versions of your site in Google’s Search Console
- Make sure your mobile site is ready to take on an increased crawl rate
The idea is to work with this rolling change and to grow your rank in the process. Failing to prepare accordingly can lead to a rank drop that isn’t going to do you any favors. By focusing on making the necessary changes now, you can help ensure that you retain your vibrant market share throughout this Google transition – and beyond.
Mobile-First Indexing Shouldn’t Come as a Surprise
Google has been steadily moving toward mobile-first indexing, and they provide a handy dandy changelog to prove it. These changes rolled out as follows:
- November 2016 – Google experiments with the move to mobile-first indexing.
- December 2017 – Google begins evaluating sites for mobile-first readiness and begins cautiously rolling out those that are ready.
- March 2018 – Google continues to roll out mobile-first indexing more broadly.
- December 2019 – Google begins notifying site owners (via Search Console) when their site is moved to mobile-first indexing.
- May 2019 – Google announces that, as of July 1, 2019, all new websites will – by default – have mobile-first indexing.
A Digital Marketing Specialist Can Help You Get Ready for Mobile-First Indexing
Mobile-first indexing is coming to your site – it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” When it comes to your online offerings, change is inevitable, but the digital marketing specialists at The Web Guys have got you covered. The internet never sleeps, but when your online house is in order, you don’t need to worry about it. We’re here to help put you through your paces and ensure that your conversion to mobile-first indexing is as smooth as silk. We’re here to help, so please contact us online or give us a call at 317-805-4933 today!