What Is The Mobile-First Index And How It Affects SEO?

Desktops used to be the primary source of internet traffic with Google focusing on desktop-based sites for ranking. But things have changed drastically with the popularity of mobile devices. Right now, more than 5 billion people across the world own a mobile device, over half of them being smartphones.

What Is The Mobile-First Index And How It Affects SEO?

In 2018, mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic reaching 52.2% of all website traffic. Among all searches on Google, 60% queries are generated from mobile devices. Google’s push for mobile had prompted the company to develop and announced the rolling out of the mobile-first index which is now in full force in 2019.

So what does it mean for the average site owner? Do they need to make changes to their site or create a mobile website?

The key is not to panic. First, you should understand what is mobile indexing and how it affects your ranking. We will walk you through all the aspects of the mobile-first index so that you can refine your site and make it work for the new changes.

What is the Mobile-First Index?

When you enter a search query in Google, the search engine will follow the links to discover your page. It is the stage where the Google bots will craw your content before entering it in its database.

After crawling, your webpage is stored in Google’s database by making a copy of it. This process is known as indexing.

Traditionally, Google has used the desktop version of websites to index the content. But now it will be relying on the mobile version of your website to index and rank your page. The move helps Google to help its mobile users to find what they are looking for.

If you track crawling traffic of your website, you will see higher activity of Smartphone Googlebot. Mobile-first index looks for mobile versions of your website in the first place. But if you don’t have a mobile website, then Google will use your desktop version.

Google will prefer mobile websites from now on which will also have a positive impact on the ranking. So a site with better mobile experience will rank better than a site which doesn’t have a mobile version or performs poorly on mobile.

What do you exactly need to do to take advantage of the situation? Let’s find out!

How to Optimise Your Website for the Mobile-First Index?

Responsive Design

If you have a responsive website that performs equally well on mobile and desktop, you have got nothing to worry about. But if your website is desktop-focused, you need to create a website with responsive design.

Responsive design takes in the user environment into consideration and performs consistently across a variety of devices.

Different Sites for Desktop and Mobile

Now you don’t need to create dedicated sites separately for mobile or desktop if you use responsive design. On top of that, having your mobile version and desktop website on different URLs is a big drawback. That means “domain.com” for desktop and for example “m.domain.com” for mobile versions.

You can create a single website using responsive design and forget about the rest.

Same Content on Both Versions

You should serve the same content on our mobile and desktop sites. That means having the same articles, links and features in both sites. You can mold your content for mobile display but keep all other things the same.

Easy to Read

Tune your content so that they are easy to read on a mobile device. Make sure you have a suitable font size for the small mobile screen and use enough whitespaces.

You can also write short sentences and concise paragraphs to attract mobile audience.

Compress Images

Images on your website may take a while to load on mobile devices. If there are many high-resolution pictures that hamper loading speed, you should consider compressing them.

Use AMP

AMP of Accelerated Mobile Pages is a Google-backed project and allows publishers to load pages quickly on mobile devices. In 2016, Google integrated AMP in mobile search results.

You can accelerate your website’s speed considerably just by using a few lines of code. However, AMP is not without its faults so you need to take any disadvantages AMP may present into account.

Website Speed

Google’s top ten search results load in less than 1.10 seconds. Run extra tests on your website to ensure that your site loads within 2 to 3 seconds. If you have dedicated subdomains, then consider adding more dedicated servers.

Structured Data

Your mobile and desktop sites should have the exact same structured data markup. The URLs featured in structured data on mobile pages should also be the mobile version of the URLs. Don’t add irrelevant structured data if it doesn’t align with your content.

Metadata

Just like content, meta descriptions on both versions should be of the same nature. That means including the same keywords and information even if you use fewer characters for mobile.

Social Metadata

The social metadata on your desktop version should match the mobile version. Use the same Twitter cards, OpenGraph tags and other social metadata on both versions.

Mobile-First Index FAQ

1. Does the Mobile-First Index Involve Adding Mobile Pages to a Separate Mobile Index?

Google will use only one index with mobile-first index. The method brings a change to the way content is added to Google’s existing index. It doesn’t create a separate index.

2. Is Mobile-First Index Already Implemented?

Yes. Google rolled out mobile-first index in 2018, although it is not clear if it has fully rolled out worldwide at this stage.

3. Will Mobile-First Index Impact My Rankings?

Google will determine your ranking based on your mobile website. But if you don’t have a mobile website, it will use your website version.

You will see a difference between desktop and mobile ranking, so it’s important to track both.

4. Do I need to Have a Mobile Site?

Google will still use your desktop website if you don’t have a mobile version while ranking. If you don’t have a mobile website your rankings can suffer compared to other mobile-friendly websites.

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