It’s a Mobile World: Preparing for Google’s Mobile-first Indexing

Design & Development | Strategy

It shouldn’t be surprising that Google has been experimenting with mobile-first indexing for over a year now.  They have made it clear in the past that having a mobile-friendly site is something that will benefit your ranking and ultimately your consumer.

According to Mary Meeker’s 2017 internet trends report (full report here)

  • Mobile edged out desktop/laptop usage in 2014 at 2.6 hours/day to 2.2 hours/day respectively.
  • Since 2008, the time spent per person per day with digital media in the USA on a mobile device increased 933% from 0.3 hours to 3.1 hours in 2016.
  • 55% of the total hours per day of digital media consumption is done through mobile.

StatCounter Global Stats’ 2016 release showed some of the biggest internet usage trends.

  • In 2016 Mobile & Tablet internet usage worldwide surpassed desktop internet usage 51.3% – 48.7%
  • Although desktop internet usage is still at the top in the US at 58.0% mobile has climbed to 42.0% and probably won’t be in second place for much longer.

What does this all mean?  The world is getting bigger and we’re viewing it smaller.

What is mobile-first indexing and how should you prepare for it?

At present, Google sends out its google-bot army to index, crawl and rank web pages based on the page’s desktop version.  But like the shift from desktop to mobile-first web site development, mobile-first indexing is driven by the increased usage of mobile devices. Mobile first-indexing simply means that Google will primarily use a website’s mobile version as reference for crawling, indexing and ranking.  Google recently released an update on their progress for implementing mobile-first indexing and here’s the breakdown of what to expect and tips on how to remain vigilant.

First, if you have already gone mobile-first/responsive/dynamic serving (correctly implemented) in your web design, you are generally in the clear and won’t have to do anything.  But it never hurts to double check your designs.  Here are some suggestions to make sure your site is mobile-first indexing ready.

Make sure the content on the mobile site is robust and of high-quality

  • Relevance is still a key component in search rankings
  • Double check your text and keywords
  • Add “alt text” to qualified images
  • Apply markups for video. Check out this structured data testing tool to see how Google sees your markups.

Get your data in order

  • Be sure to check the URL structures between both desktop and mobile versions to make sure they are up-to-date.
  • Metadata should be consistent and provide a seamless transition from desktop to mobile.

Sync your links

  • If you use separate mobile URLs there’s no need to change the existing link structure from desktop to mobile (rel=alternate) and mobile to desktop (rel=canonical), but make sure your links are set up on a 1-to-1 ratio to avoid unrelated pages.
  • Double check all redirects.
  • Keep your language links relative to their respective platforms for internationalization. In other words, link your mobile page to your different language mobile page and link your desktop page with your different language desktop page.

Lastly, make sure your hosting servers will be able to handle the potentially higher rate of crawlers.  Google stated that this applies more so to mobile sites on a separate host as opposed to responsive or dynamic serving sites.

Although Google has not given a completion date, it has certainly given webmasters and concerned businesses a blueprint to have a successful transfer to mobile-first indexing. After you have audited your website for mobile-first indexing readiness, take a quick peek at how Google-bot sees your web site by using this Fetch as Google tool.

Don’t have time to do an audit yourself? Not sure if you’ve thoroughly checked your website? Why not get a second opinion from a team of well-versed, battle tested experts and specialists from Top Floor.

Sign up for our newsletter and get a free mobile-indexing scan and see if your site is ready.

Happy Crawling!