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The term “mobile-first indexing” is used to refer to the way in which Google has begun to shift the way it ranks and indexes content from desktop versions to mobile versions of websites. Today, we’re living in an increasingly mobile era. For several years now, mobile searches have been more numerous than desktop searches, so it isn’t too surprising that Google has decided to rank and index content based on mobile pages - after all, more people view mobile versions than desktop ones.
For developers, this has meant that sites must be optimised for mobile users if they are to rank highly in the Google search engine. If yours hasn’t yet been optimised, preparation is key. Mobile-first indexing was first announced by Google in 2016, with the aim of rolling it out slowly until every site would have mobile-first indexing by March of 2021.
It’s very likely, then, that your site is already on mobile-first indexing. Therefore, ensuring that your site is mobile responsive couldn’t be more important for your ranking success. Here, we take a closer look at how you can ensure that your site is primed for mobile-first indexing.
You need to ensure that a number of technical elements have been implemented on your mobile website. Using Site Audit to crawl your site’s is a good idea. First, crawl your site with the desktop user-agent then crawl it once more using the mobile user-agent. This will allow the desktop and mobile sites to be compared and any new problems will be flagged that occur on the mobile version but not on the desktop version of the site.
Checking on-page tags like meta descriptions, title tags, canonical tags, hreflang tags, image alt attributes, meta robots tags and structured data should be your first port of call.
Some other checks include:
If you’re operating separate mobile and desktop websites, there’s no way of avoiding your site’s mobile version appearing on both mobile and desktop search results once you’ve been switched over to Google’s mobile-first indexing. It’s therefore best to get rid of m-dot completely to go entirely responsive, but you could redirect users to your desktop version by adding conditional logic. In general, though, m-doc is complex and things can easily go wrong, particularly when adding more elements such as hreflang, so mobbing off these systems when possible is always best practice.
Usually, there’ll be a few differences between the way your website appears on a desktop screen and how it looks on a mobile device. After all, mobile devices have smaller screens, so it’s much more difficult to show every element on the desktop website on a mobile. There is no space to have mega-menus or sidebars, and that means mobile sites usually hide or exclude some content that can be found on the desktop version of the site.
It’s important to note that the content of your mobile site doesn’t need to be entirely identical to the content of your desktop version. However, all key content needs to be visible to mobile users. If you exclude element such as email opt-ins it won’t cause a major issue from the SEO viewpoint, however excluding elements just because it seems too long for a mobile device may have negative impacts.
At one time, when content failed to show by default on mobile it counted less than content that was visible. Now, all that has changed. Since mobile-first indexing arrived on the scene, more design options are available such as tabbed content, and therefore content that has been hidden to allow for an improved user experience is no longer discounted by Google.
A lot of ecommerce websites have used such design elements extremely effectively, creating simplified pages for viewing on mobile devices that can provide users with additional details whenever they request them, for example FAQs, extra product details or user reviews. This proves that it’s possible to harness the power of the latest mobile design elements to provide users with all of your most important content, regardless of which type of device they choose to use to access your site.
It’s likely that there’s no cause for concern about any external links to your website. They’ll usually consolidate correctly and be counted for mobile pages so long as the canonical tags are right. When it comes to internal links, though, it’s essential to ensure all the most important links are still in existence on your site’s mobile version. Often, mobile sites skip some elements in order to save on space. There are many sites that use smaller menus for mobile devices that those found on their desktop sites. This could negatively impact your ranking, though, since it can change the way PageRank flows through the site.
Since all sites should now be on mobile-first indexing, it’s absolutely vital to ensure that you’ve done everything possible to make your website mobile friendly. Follow the advice that is provided above, and you can make sure that, regardless of which type of device your site’s users choose to use to access your content, they will still be able to see and use all of your most important features correctly, and they will still enjoy an excellent user experience. This will, in turn, ensure your site ranks highly on the Google search engine.