The new buzz word or in this instance, three words as the case may be, around the Internet savvy is Google’s “Mobile-First Indexing”. You may have heard someone drop the term in passing or just caught a glimpse of it in the paper. The question on everyone’s lips “is does it affect me and if so how?”
For the more technical out there who like to stay informed about what is happening. Might be asking “is this going to affect my website and all the hard work I have done to increase its rankings?” After all as a business you want to stay ahead of your competitors. Underlying questions related to the Mobile-First Indexing is how it will affect rankings of websites. Over the past 10 years, or so we have seen so many Google changes affecting how rankings appear.
Is this just another shake up?
The move comes by Google after the increase of searches using mobile devices actually over took desktop devices. In 2017 Statista report that 50.3% of searches on the Internet were now done using some type of smart phone or device. It is predicted that in 2018 52.2 of all searches will be conducted on mobile devices. In areas such as Asia 65.1% of searches are done on mobile devices and in Africa it is a staggering 65.1% of search traffic. This phenomena is due in part to the areas infrastructure or lack of and the availability of cell towers to feed mobile devices.
Mobile-First Indexing Definition
Let’s just put everyones mind to rest very quickly here. Google does not intend de-indexing desktop websites so you dont have to worry about your website being totaly obsolete. Its is only gong to be partially obsolete! No just kidding, well almost.
Mobile-First Indexing will as it states give more weight to websites that are mobile friendly. Really it is that simple. Google will take a look at your website. When a mobile version is found Google will rank it higher than a desktop website that does not.
This is how Google used to function.
All their infrastructure was based around desktops. They wrote spiders to index primarily for these devices as most people used them for searching the web. So the indexing process was;
Google’s spider came along and looked at your desktop website. It dealt with desktop first and then contemplated other available information.
Google’s servers then applied its very complex algorithms to the results collected. Which determined your desktop ranking within the search results.
Google aimed to deliver the best results it could for its search clients (that’s you and me searching the Internet) If you had a mobile version of your website it would try to present that to mobile users.
Let us fast track forward now to present day.
Once upon a time in a cyber space far far away desktops ruled.. The whole website world revolved around them. Then we had the rise of laptops and to some extent they paved the way for change. Now a new force has been set free. It is now deemed as the supreme force on the Internet and that is mobile or smart-phone.
Google s new Mobile-First Indexing will work as follows
Google’s spider comes along and crawls your mobile website first.
It then takes the information back to their servers. Where the very complex calculations are performed to determine the rankings for your mobile and desktop website.
If you do not have a mobile website Google crawls your desktop version instead.
This is verified in the Google article Rolling out mobile-first indexing which states;
“To recap, 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.”
So is a desktop website as good as a mobile website?
Not exactly, as the situation is still a little complex. Google feels that more searches are preformed on mobile devices. Therefore to best represent those searches. Results from mobile friendly websites will be given priority but not at the cost of content. Google clearly states that;
“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.”
So, as ever, Google is still trying to present the most relevant information to the end user.
If your website already offers a mobile version of itself. Whether a completely separate site or that your present website is mobile friendly (meaning that it responds to different devises). You have nothing to worry about. Just keep building content that is engaging and informative.
On the other hand if you have avoided developing a mobile version of your website. Or even contemplated that you do not need to consider mobile devices then think again. There is a change coming on the wind of time and that is the lean to mobile friendly websites. If you do not heed this warning you will be left behind buried with the sands of time.
Carpe Indexing Primum mobile
If you have already built a mobile friendly website. Or are a business contemplating the advantages for doing so. Here are a few helpful tips on how to gain the best results.
Make the best use of Google Analytics. Make sure you identify your mobile application within the Google Analytics. To help you find the weaker areas within your site. So you can make changes that benefit the end users over all experience. Which in turn will help you rank higher within the search results.
Check that your mobile website pages load very fast. As with desktop websites slow loading pages are ranked lower if the content is questionable. In other words if you have to have a mobile web page that takes 2 seconds to load. Make sure that the content is of outstanding quality.
Make sure that you serve structured markup for both desktop and mobile versions. When building your mobile friendly website remember to avoid adding large amounts of markup. That is not relevant to the specific information content of the document.
Remember also that if you are to build a mobile version of your website. That a functional desktop version is always better than a broken or incomplete mobile version. It is far better to wait until you have completed your mobile site before launching it.
As an Internet marketer and consultant it is difficult to predict if the Mobile-First Indexing will completely take over. Several questions come to mind. As we develop information for the web who and what do we aim it at? Do we develop for mobile search as is being rolled out by Google? Or do we stick with our tried and tested desktop approach? As Bing have stated they have no intention of following Google with their Mobile-First Indexing. Yahoo have yet to comment which seems strange that they have not commented about it in the last two years.
Another underlying factor of these mobile searchers that I would like to see addressed. Are the number of searches conducted by minors under the age of 18. In the UK and USA you can not have a a contract on a mobile phone until this age. So do the mobile search results take into account the number of younger people searching on mobile devices? Or are the results some what skewed, only time will tell. So for the present moment we will try to walk the very fine line between Mobile-First Indexing and Desktop Indexing. After all if we get it wrong our clients will lose out and sack us!