Mobile-First Indexing: How Mobile SEO is Changing

5 minute read

mobile-first-futurepay

 

In 2015 Google released a massive change to their ranking algorithm which gave a boost to mobile-friendly content. The change was so big people started referring to the date it rolled out as the ‘mobilepocalypse’ or ‘mobilegeddon’.

 

Google may be announcing another mobile-centric change to their algorithm in the not so distant future. At the end of 2016, Google announced it was experimenting with mobile-first indexing and this change is expected to get pushed live sometime this year.

 

What Exactly Does This Change Mean?

 

Most people today search on their mobile device. However, Google still relies on the desktop version of a website when evaluating its relevance to the user’s search query. This creates some problems when the mobile version of a site differs from the desktop version, because Google’s algorithms aren’t evaluating the actual page seen by the user. And that is what Google is aiming to change.

 

With mobile-first indexing, Google ranks your mobile-site first and only looks at the desktop version if your site doesn’t have a mobile version. By relying on this type of indexing, Google will be able to better serve mobile users and ensure they are providing the right content to the right browsers.

 

Will Mobile-First Indexing Impact My Site?

 

Well that depends. If you already have a robust and comprehensive mobile site, then there isn’t much to worry about. Even if you don’t have a mobile site at all, Google will still evaluate the desktop version for ranking. But of course, if you don’t have a mobile responsive site then you will miss out on the mobile-friendly ranking boost that Google introduced in 2015.

 

If you’re about to scramble to double check your search rankings, don’t worry, Google says you shouldn’t be able to see any impact from the change just yet. In fact, they hope that there will be little impact at all (but we’ll just wait and see about that).

 

Can I Prepare?

 

Google has stated that if you have a responsive site where “the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop” then you should not have to change a thing. That said, there are a few things you can do to prepare for the change beyond simply having a mobile site.

 

Run a Mobile-Friendly Test

 

Your first step is to run a quick mobile-friendly test to see if your site is currently fully responsive, or if some pages need work. But don’t just test your homepage and call it a day – test several (or even all) pages to make sure your whole site is mobile-friendly.

 

You can look at how your site looks on mobile either by using your own device or by inspecting a page and toggling to the mobile view in Chrome’s developer tools. From here you can even see how your site looks on different devices.

mobile-first-screen1

mobile-first-screen2

mobile-first-screen3

While device mode will give you a fairly accurate emulation of how your site looks on a particular device, you should test how your site works on real devices in order to get the full picture.

 

Make Sure Your Mobile Site is Properly Indexed

 

Next you should check if the mobile version of your site is indexed properly. To do this, simply type site:yourdomain.com into a browser on your smartphone. If search results show up then you’re good to go, and if not, then you may have some work to do. One potential reason a mobile website may not be indexed properly is if you have a different URL for desktop and mobile versions. If this is the case then you will have to add a sitemap to your mobile site, then submit your mobile sitemap to the Google Search Console and add it to your robot.txt file.

 

Make Sure Your Site is Fast

 

Site speed will also play a hand in how Google’s mobile index ranks your site. Google has stated that two seconds is the threshold for ecommerce sites, but that retailers should aim for half-second load times. Some of the main ways to speed up load time include optimizing images, reducing redirects, minimizing code, and leveraging browser caching.

 

What This Means for Ecommerce Retailers

 

If nothing else, this change is yet another reason for retailers to put an equal amount of focus into their mobile shopping experience as they do the desktop experience. Having a seamless and streamlined mobile experience was already a priority for many retailers, but this switch to a mobile-first index only further elevates the importance of investing in mobile. That’s because in many ways, Google defines how the internet is designed. Just think about back in the early days of Google, where keyword stuffing and link farming on websites was common place. When Google changed their algorithm, the internet changed with it. After Google’s mobile-friendly update in 2015, there was an uptick in the number of mobile-friendly sites by the very next day. So, if Google is switching to mobile-first, retailers need to switch with it.

 

As an online retailer, you’re probably aware of how important organic search rankings can be. The top result on Google gets 33% of traffic and the first page receives 91.5% of traffic. Even buying your way to the top of the page with PPC isn’t as effective, considering that 85% of clicks are on organic listings rather than paid listings. So, it’s worth putting some effort into making sure you rank as high as possible.

 

While Google has yet to roll the change out to any large number of people, they are continuing to test the change and will start rolling it out to more people as they become more confident with the mobile-first index.

 

P.S. Enjoy this post? You’ll love Defining Mobile Payments: In-Store, Online, and In-App

5 minute read

mobile-first-futurepay

 

In 2015 Google released a massive change to their ranking algorithm which gave a boost to mobile-friendly content. The change was so big people started referring to the date it rolled out as the ‘mobilepocalypse’ or ‘mobilegeddon’.

 

Google may be announcing another mobile-centric change to their algorithm in the not so distant future. At the end of 2016, Google announced it was experimenting with mobile-first indexing and this change is expected to get pushed live sometime this year.

 

What Exactly Does This Change Mean?

 

Most people today search on their mobile device. However, Google still relies on the desktop version of a website when evaluating its relevance to the user’s search query. This creates some problems when the mobile version of a site differs from the desktop version, because Google’s algorithms aren’t evaluating the actual page seen by the user. And that is what Google is aiming to change.

 

With mobile-first indexing, Google ranks your mobile-site first and only looks at the desktop version if your site doesn’t have a mobile version. By relying on this type of indexing, Google will be able to better serve mobile users and ensure they are providing the right content to the right browsers.

 

Will Mobile-First Indexing Impact My Site?

 

Well that depends. If you already have a robust and comprehensive mobile site, then there isn’t much to worry about. Even if you don’t have a mobile site at all, Google will still evaluate the desktop version for ranking. But of course, if you don’t have a mobile responsive site then you will miss out on the mobile-friendly ranking boost that Google introduced in 2015.

 

If you’re about to scramble to double check your search rankings, don’t worry, Google says you shouldn’t be able to see any impact from the change just yet. In fact, they hope that there will be little impact at all (but we’ll just wait and see about that).

 

Can I Prepare?

 

Google has stated that if you have a responsive site where “the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop” then you should not have to change a thing. That said, there are a few things you can do to prepare for the change beyond simply having a mobile site.

 

Run a Mobile-Friendly Test

 

Your first step is to run a quick mobile-friendly test to see if your site is currently fully responsive, or if some pages need work. But don’t just test your homepage and call it a day – test several (or even all) pages to make sure your whole site is mobile-friendly.

 

You can look at how your site looks on mobile either by using your own device or by inspecting a page and toggling to the mobile view in Chrome’s developer tools. From here you can even see how your site looks on different devices.

mobile-first-screen1

mobile-first-screen2

mobile-first-screen3

While device mode will give you a fairly accurate emulation of how your site looks on a particular device, you should test how your site works on real devices in order to get the full picture.

 

Make Sure Your Mobile Site is Properly Indexed

 

Next you should check if the mobile version of your site is indexed properly. To do this, simply type site:yourdomain.com into a browser on your smartphone. If search results show up then you’re good to go, and if not, then you may have some work to do. One potential reason a mobile website may not be indexed properly is if you have a different URL for desktop and mobile versions. If this is the case then you will have to add a sitemap to your mobile site, then submit your mobile sitemap to the Google Search Console and add it to your robot.txt file.

 

Make Sure Your Site is Fast

 

Site speed will also play a hand in how Google’s mobile index ranks your site. Google has stated that two seconds is the threshold for ecommerce sites, but that retailers should aim for half-second load times. Some of the main ways to speed up load time include optimizing images, reducing redirects, minimizing code, and leveraging browser caching.

 

What This Means for Ecommerce Retailers

 

If nothing else, this change is yet another reason for retailers to put an equal amount of focus into their mobile shopping experience as they do the desktop experience. Having a seamless and streamlined mobile experience was already a priority for many retailers, but this switch to a mobile-first index only further elevates the importance of investing in mobile. That’s because in many ways, Google defines how the internet is designed. Just think about back in the early days of Google, where keyword stuffing and link farming on websites was common place. When Google changed their algorithm, the internet changed with it. After Google’s mobile-friendly update in 2015, there was an uptick in the number of mobile-friendly sites by the very next day. So, if Google is switching to mobile-first, retailers need to switch with it.

 

As an online retailer, you’re probably aware of how important organic search rankings can be. The top result on Google gets 33% of traffic and the first page receives 91.5% of traffic. Even buying your way to the top of the page with PPC isn’t as effective, considering that 85% of clicks are on organic listings rather than paid listings. So, it’s worth putting some effort into making sure you rank as high as possible.

 

While Google has yet to roll the change out to any large number of people, they are continuing to test the change and will start rolling it out to more people as they become more confident with the mobile-first index.

 

P.S. Enjoy this post? You’ll love Defining Mobile Payments: In-Store, Online, and In-App