How Mobile-First Indexing Will Affect Your SEO Strategy
Mobile users are quickly outpacing desktop users. Google wants mobile-users to find what they’re looking for. Mobile-friendly websites are designed to optimize content for users who are viewing the site on a mobile device. The website should adjust to the size of the screen and allow users to find what they’re looking for in just a few seconds. In 2015, Google began giving higher rankings to websites that were updated for a better user experience.
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Websites were urged to go mobile-friendly after that update. Google never stops its mission of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible. There have been many updates to the algorithms applied to search engine rankings over the past two decades that have increased user experiences. Sites that follow best SEO practices have been rewarded by remaining high in search engine rankings.
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Understanding How Google Ranks Pages
How Mobile-First Will Change Search Results
Google ranks web pages in an index that is used when providing search results. Historically, it was the desktop version of the site that was indexed. When mobile users access the desktop version of a page, it can appear much different than the mobile version. The mobile sites will now be the primary baseline for determining rankings. Google crawlers will crawl the mobile version of your site first.
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Mobile-first is the term because it’s not mobile-only. If you only have a desktop site, your site will not be excluded from search results. Google will still index your site. But without a mobile-friendly user experience, Google may drop your rankings. On the other hand, if your site does have a mobile-friendly index, you could rank higher for searchers using a desktop version.
How Mobile-First Indexing Will Affect Your SEO Strategy
This change is in its earliest stages of testing. Google is gradually rolling out the mobile-first indexing across sites that are ready. You will know if your site has shifted to the mobile-first index through notification in your Search Console.
If you only have desktop content, you will be represented in Google’s index. Site owners should not panic. However, given that mobile-friendly sites will most likely perform better in search results, this change may affect desktop sites that aren’t mobile-friendly simply by pushing them down in rankings in mobile searchers.
If your site is identical in its desktop and mobile versions, you may not have to anything beyond what you’re already doing. Keep optimizing your pages for the mobile experience. Many sites use responsive web design, which allows the site to respond to whichever operating system the user has.
- Structured data – the same structured data should be on both the mobile and desktop versions of the site. Don’t add structured data unless it’s relevant to the content.
- Content – the content on your mobile site should have all the content that your desktop site does, including videos and images. Update your mobile site make sure it is crawlable and able to be indexed.
- Metadata – titles and meta descriptions should be equivalent, the same information and relevant keywords need to be included, but you can certainly optimize mobile titles with shorter character counts.
- Social metadata – your mobile version should include OpenGraph tags and Twitter cards and any other social metadata that is used on your desktop version.
- XML and media sitemaps – trust signals, robots directives and links to sitemaps need to be available on your mobile version.
- Verify your mobile site in Google Search Console if you haven’t already.
- App indexation – verify the mobile version if you have this set up for your desktop site.
- Server capacity – If your mobile version is being hosted on a separate site, (such as m.domain.com) will it be able to handle an increased crawl rate.
Best Practices for Separate Mobile and Desktop Content
- Your mobile site should have the same content.
- Structured data needs to be present in both versions.
- Metadata needs to be present in both versions.
Common Mistakes Made in Mobile-Friendly Design
Allow the Google crawlers to see your site as a normal user does. Test the mobile pages to ensure they are compatible for mobile users.
- Unplayable content
Flash and other players are not supported on mobile devices. If you have this kind of content on your desktop version, mobile users will get an error message. Use HTML5 standard tags and animations that work across all browsers. If nothing else, have a transcript of the video available to make your content accessible for everyone.
- Faulty redirects or irrelevant cross links.
If your desktop site is configured to redirect mobile users to the homepage, regardless of which URL was requested, users will not have a good experience on your site. You must redirect mobile users to the appropriate mobile URL.
- Mobile-only 404s
If your site recognizes a mobile user visiting a desktop page, it’s better to redirect them to the mobile page URL instead of giving them an error page. If there is no mobile page, let the user use the desktop page, which is a better experience than the error. Responsive web design gives you the most flexibility, because the content adjusts to the user.
- Avoid interstitials
Interstitial ads are pop-up banners that appear over the native content. On mobile devices, interstitials can be difficult to dismiss, which negatively affects the user’s experience. Google’s algorithm measures how long users stay on your site. If a user has to deal with an interstitial, they may leave before viewing your content.
- Slow page loading
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