Google Experiments With Mobile-First Indexing
On November 4, 2016, Google announced it had started “experiments to make our index mobile-first.” Their “algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages.”
What this means for you: Your site’s mobile experience will be the primary point of reference when your content is indexed, not your desktop pages (which is the case currently).
Why The Change?
In short, it’s a mobile-first world! As of 2015, more Google search queries take place on mobile devices than on desktops and laptops globally. However, when evaluating how to rank pages in Google SERPs, Google has historically indexed the desktop version of the site.
Thus, mobile visitors to a site optimized for desktop draw the short straw. For instance: if a site has less content on the mobile version, a desktop-centric index will produce a suboptimal experience for searchers using mobile devices. They won’t find what they are looking for when they click through to the mobile version of your landing page.
Google’s objective is to provide the best search experience to users, so the shift to a mobile-first index makes sense.
How Will This Impact You?
If you have a responsive, dynamic, or fluid site serving identical content across mobile and desktop, Google has stated “you shouldn’t have to change anything”.
If you have a separate or different site or experience on mobile, you should consult Google’s recommendations to help webmasters prepare for the upcoming change, including:
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; Google will continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile.
If you would like assistance preparing for the upcoming change, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll talk you through it!