What the Google Mobile First Index 🔎 Migration Means To You
Google has been in the process of flipping their primary search index from desktop to mobile first index for the past few years. Recently they shared news that over half of all websites have been migrated to their mobile index. Previously they publically announced the mass migration.
How does this affect you and your web site or blog's ability to be indexed?
Hopefully you wont notice anything different. If you have followed web development and design best practices then your site is in good shape.
Back in the 2011 time frame the web crossed the mobile moment, that point in time where more traffic originated on mobile devices than desktop computers.
Consequently the majority of Google's search queries originate on mobile devices. Many years ago, I have no idea when, they created a second spider engine to collect data as a mobile phone. Bing also has a separate mobile index, in case you were wondering.
This means there are two different spiders crawling your site. Up till now the majority of the crawls have been through the desktop spider. That is now changing.
our crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page's content, which may cause issues for mobile searchers when that version is vastly different from the mobile version. Mobile-first indexing means that we'll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our 'primarily mobile' users find what they're looking for.
Unless your site is not mobile friendly, you should not notice a significant change.
If you follow any of these metrics then you will notice some differences:
- increased crawl rate from smartphone Googlebot
- mobile results will be shown in Google's cached pages
- this is more about how they search and index and not how content is ranked
If for some reason you have ignored mobile then you should immediately change this practice. The best place to start is evaluating where you stand from a mobile perspective.
What Does Mobile First Indexing Mean?
This desscribes how Google crawls and indexes the web, using a mobile experience. In other words, Google crawls your web page using a mobile phone browser instead of a desktop version. This means if your website is weak on mobile it will be weak in search results.
A poor mobile user experience means you most likely won't earn any search listings and your site's organic traffic will suffer.
Best mobile-first practices you should immediately evaluate and correct your site if you are falling short:
- Make sure your site renders fast, like 3 seconds or less on an average phone
- Your mobile site should contain the same content as your desktop site.
- Structured data should be present on both versions of your site.
- Metadata should be present on both versions of the site.
- Verify both versions of your site in Search Console
- Check hreflang links on separate URLs
- Ensure your servers have enough capacity to a handle potential increase in crawl rate
- Verify that your robots.txt directives work as you intended for both versions of your site.
- Make sure you have the correct rel=canonical and rel=alternate link elements
There is a lot of depth to those points, more than this article warrents. If you need help please reach out to me and I would be glad to help.
If you are worried about losing your desktop search rankings you shouldn't be worried. The Google search team has made this clear:
- Mobile-indexing is rolling out more broadly. Being indexed this way has no ranking advantage and operates independently from our mobile-friendly assessment.
- Having mobile-friendly content is still helpful for those looking at ways to perform better in mobile search results.
- Having fast-loading content is still helpful for those looking at ways to perform better for mobile and desktop users.
- As always, ranking uses many factors. We may show content to users that�s not mobile-friendly or that is slow loading if our many other signals determine it is the most relevant content to show.
If you want to see your status as a mobile friendly site from Google's perspective I recommend you check your Google Webmaster Tools. This has become a valuable tool for me to know how to update this and other sites I manage for better search engine rankings.
While most sites have been smart and updated their sites to be mobile friendly, many still have room to improve. A key area most sites are still failing is speed.
The average page takes around 22 seconds to load on mobile phones. This does not need to be the case. You can improve your site's performance profile with some simple fixes, without sacrificing your ability to monetize.
This is why Google create their Accelerated Mobile Pages program. They scrape out all the code dragging your site down and make it load fast, but you sacrifice control. You can acheive the same results, without AMP.
Love2Dev specializes in developing high performance web sites. Our sites are mobile first and take advantages of Progressive Web App technology to make our sites not only user, but search friendly.
Google's migration to a mobile first Google index is a strong signal that you must be mobile friendly today or you are chosing to ignore the majority of your customers.