Google announces shift to “mobile-first” indexing
On Friday, Google published this blog post, announcing that it is now in the process of rolling out “mobile-first indexing”.
What is mobile-first indexing?
In a nutshell, Google has decided that in light of the fact that the majority of searches are now performed on mobile devices, its search result index will be given a renewed focus on delivering search results to mobile users from those sites which provide the best possible experience on mobile – regardless of how the same site performs for desktop users.
OK, but what does it mean in practical terms?
The most important take-away from this announcement is that if the mobile version of a given page has less content than its desktop equivalent (or lower quality content), search performance may suffer in favour of a competing site which provides a more comprehensive or useful mobile experience.
This is in contrast to previous mobile indexing behaviour in which the site’s desktop version heavily influenced its mobile performance.
Crucially, this also applies to structured data.
How to prepare for mobile-first indexing
Our advice is to compare mobile and desktop versions of your site to identify any discrepancies. Where differences exist, alterations should be made to ensure that both versions convey essentially the same information and benefit to users regardless of their chosen platform.
Keep in mind that this update is primarily about user experience. Google strives to improve its search index to provide the best possible service to end users – this is how it maintains its market dominance – so make sure this is your focus when deciding what to change on either mobile or desktop views.
What if your site already offers an excellent mobile experience?
If your site is responsive and offers a near-identical experience on both mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything. Hurrah!
If however there are substantial differences between your desktop and mobile versions, you will need to prepare for this change if you want to reduce the risk of degraded search performance.
Google’s advice on mobile-first indexing
Here are the most important points straight from Google:
Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version.
Sites can verify the equivalence of their structured markup across desktop and mobile by typing the URLs of both versions into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing the output.
When adding structured data to a mobile site, avoid adding large amounts of markup that isn’t relevant to the specific information content of each document.
Use the robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot.
Sites do not have to make changes to their canonical links; we’ll continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile.
So that’s the latest update from Google HQ. If you’re concerned about the potential impact this update might have on your business, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to help.