The talks have been making the rounds for quite some time now. Yes, we are referring to – Google’s transition to a mobile-first index. According to a recent study, over 55% of all search traffic comes from a mobile device, and the trend is sure to grow in the coming years. This doesn’t mean that desktop search is gonna die a rapid death, after all, 44% of traffic is indeed massive.
However, this transition to mobile devices by users has led Google to rethink its indexing. In fact, Google announced that it would be transitioning to mobile-first indexing shortly.
Here, in today’s post, you can find all that you need to know about this transition, how it affects your ranking and what it means to the SEO tactics of your site.
What is Google’s mobile-first index?
Soon, Google will be ranking search results based on the mobile version of websites and not on the desktop versions. Only when a particular site doesn’t have a mobile version, Google will look at its desktop version.
This means, irrespective of whether you’re using Google search on your Smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop, Google will present you with the same mobile-first index.
When is this transition going to happen?
As of now, there’s no official date set for this transition. Instead, of one big switchover, Google plans to make the change in batches.
Why is Google making this transition? Or what’s the need for a mobile-first index?
Traditionally, when you search for something on Google, the search engine presented you with results that are optimized for the desktop user. However, as mobile search continues to outweigh desktop searches, Google has decided that it’s time to switch things up.
This transition aims to provide the majority of users with an efficient and comprehensive search experience. Right now, the majority is mobile users, and hence Google plans to address the needs of this category of users.
Another more significant issue to note is that there are discrepancies between a mobile version and a desktop version of a site. Generally, most site owners have a mobile site that is a watered-down version of their desktop site.
This presents mobile users with some difficulties. For instance, the Google search page (based on the desktop version) may indicate some information that is required by the user. When the user clicks on the search result from a mobile device, he/she is taken to the mobile version of the site, which doesn’t have that particular information.
With a mobile-first index, Google aims to overcome this problem. Sites that have pages that appear on the desktop version but are missing in the mobile version will no longer make it to the SERP results of Google. With this move, Google plans to provide mobile users with more accurate search results.
Now, that you’ve understood the core of the issue, we’re pretty sure, you have a list of questions on your mind. Here, we hope to address your queries.
What happens if I don’t have a mobile website for my business?
The good news is that – there’s no reason to panic, right now. If you don’t have a mobile version of your site, Google’s search bots will still crawl over your desktop site and index it. In fact, a blog post published by Google in 2016 sheds further clarity on this issue. According to this post, Google states that in fact, site owners must focus on creating a fully-functional desktop website rather than an incomplete mobile site.
And, to further confuse site-owners (Google is indeed guilty for doing this from time to time), the search engine giant has stated that it will still use a few desktop signals in its mobile-first index for now.
With all that said if you don’t have a mobile responsive website for your business yet, it’s high time you start building one. This is because sites that aren’t mobile-friendly will continue to rank poorly when compared to mobile-friendly ones.
Ok, I have a mobile version of my site. But, it doesn’t contain as much information as my desktop site. What should I do?
This is one issue that you’ll have to address sooner than later. This is because Google’s crawlers rank your site based on the mobile content and don’t take a look at your desktop site. In fact, Google strongly recommends that you start working on a responsive design for your website. When you have a responsive webpage, the content on the page remains the same irrespective of the device type.
On the other hand, if you have made the decision not to use a responsive website (though it’s highly recommended that you use one), and plan to separate mobile and desktop versions of your site, moving forward make the mobile site your primary focus.
If updates are required for your web pages, ensure that there is minimal disruption. Also, keep your mobile site highly optimized as this will help you secure those coveted top rankings on Google.
Will the mobile-first index, impact search engine rankings?
While it appears like a big change, Google has stated that the process will not impact search engine results much.
With that said, we think that you keep updated with the changes to ensure that you retain your page rankings. This helps you to stay on guard even if Google’s policies change over time.
Ok, what does this mean for my business? Will Google’s mobile-first index impact me?
Going forward, the key for all businesses will be to focus on the mobile version of the site, without compromising on the desktop quality.
Here are a few ideas to help your website maintain good ranking even in the era of mobile searches.
1. Reduce your Page Loading Times
Right now, Google hasn’t been pretty forthcoming about how the page speed impacts ranking in the mobile-first index. When it comes to desktop-based ranking, Google has always relied on desktop page load speeds.
Even though Google hasn’t specified it; one can safely assume that page speeds will continue to matter. Good page load times are a good thing to have, irrespective of the type of the device. This is highly crucial for mobile users who aren’t known for their patience.
In fact, if your page doesn’t load in two seconds, then you can know that it’s time to make some serious changes. Large bulky images are a big no-no and ensure that your code is efficient and streamlined.
2. If you don’t have a mobile responsive site, it’s time to get started on it
Instead of having separate versions of a desktop site and a mobile site, the best move going forward is to have a single site that works seamlessly across devices. Apart from the SEO benefits of a mobile responsive website, it provides your users with rich user experience.
A mobile-responsive website is highly accessible and user-friendly thereby pulling in more visitors to your site. When you don’t have a responsive site, you’re losing a huge chunk of your potential customers due to the poor UX.
3. Aim for uniformity among your Content
Create a consistent and unified web experience for both your mobile and desktop visitors. As mentioned in the previous point, the best way to do this is by implementing a responsive mobile design.
4. Verify if your mobile site is getting indexed successfully
While this may feel obvious, a vast majority of site owners fail to do this. It’s quite easy to perform this check. Search for your website on Google, from your mobile in the following format: “site:mywebsite.com.”
If nothing pops, then you’ll have to focus on creating a mobile sitemap. On the other hand, if your desktop and mobile sites appear separately, check your robots.txt, to ensure that your code isn’t blocking Google’s bots.
5. Take an in-depth look at your site from a Smartphone
View your site on a mobile device. How does it appear? Is it easy to navigate and find content? Are you able to view critical information or is anything missing? Do you see any room for improvement?
If yes, then click here to start ironing out the mistakes on your mobile site.
What does the future hold?
It’s safe to predict that this is the first of changes from Google as the search giant makes a move to mobile-friendly internet. Apps will become more important for businesses. So, to move ahead of your competition, future-proof your website and improve your profits, you need to have a mobile-friendly website design and SEO strategy.
Have you prepared for the mobile-first indexing transition from Google? Do you have a fully-functional responsive website? If you need any help building a mobile-friendly website, get in touch with our web design experts to find out how we can help you.
By harnessing the potential of both these tools, you can out beat your local competition, improve visibility while boosting sales.
Give us a call at +91-124-4382-633 or drop in a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how our SEO experts here at Webfries leverage the latest technology and tools to put you ahead of your competitors. Stay relevant, get found online and watch your profits grow!