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How Google’s New Mobile-First Indexing Affects SEO

Mobile SEO - mobile-first index

The evolution of SEO and search rankings have moved in a fairly consistent direction until recently. For most of this evolution, Google emphasized search for desktop. However, as mobile searches have become more common, Google has shifted its focus. The search giant announced in late 2016 that it has begun experimenting with its “mobile-first index.” Here are details about this development and how it may affect your site.

Reason For Mobile-First Index

Google says it now sees more mobile than desktop searches. So to reflect the mobile revolution, the search engine will prioritize content, links, and structured data of a mobile optimized site. At the same time, Google will maintain one index of websites and apps while its algorithms will primarily follow the mobile versions of sites to rank pages based on content.

Algorithms will also learn structured data from sites and display snippets of pages in results. In other words, search rankings will be based on mobile sites, although desktop sites will still be indexed and if a desktop site is not mobile-friendly, it could eventually be affected by this change.

Why Mobile Keeps Surging

If you thought smartphones and notebooks were just a trend, they’ve already proven to be much more than that. For a growing number of people, they’ve become a way of life. Remember, mobile devices:

  • Aren’t just for making personal phone calls, taking photos and playing games anymore.
  • Are tools people use to look for deals and make purchases everywhere they go.
  • Can allow for seamless transactions from social media to purchasing decisions.
  • Are used on the go.

Mobile users have eclipsed desktop users in recent years, which is one of the main triggers of Google’s decision to place more emphasis on mobile search. With mobile searches outpacing desktop searches, Google had no choice but to take notice and act upon this unstoppable phenomenon.

Getting Up To Speed with Mobile

The goal of every modern web designer should be to make their site dynamically present content to whatever device accesses it, whether it’s desktop or mobile. Responsive web design is a typical method to transform a desktop-only site into a mobile-friendly experience.

If you still have a desktop site but don’t have a mobile site, Google’s mobile search bots will still crawl your site and it will continue to show up in search rankings. Desktops aren’t going away anytime soon, as programmers, office workers, and casual home users still use them for a wide variety of purposes, yet with the steady growth of mobile use, it’s a wise idea to make your site cross-platform. Be sure you:

  • Remember to appeal to mobile users.
  • Web sites look different on smaller screens.
  • Text and pictures need to be based on dimensions for smaller screens.
  • Users click away quickly if they can’t read or see items you are selling.

What You Need to Know About Accelerated Mobile Pages

In 2015, Google unleashed Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) which optimizes mobile web browsing and speeds up page loading.  The AMP Project came from open source coding, based on the work of engineers from around the world collaborating on the effort. In January 2017, Google announced that it was letting some mobile users with limited RAM view a more compressed version of the new AMP Lite format, which uses 45% fewer bytes. AMP Lite is designed to load pages even faster and uses less data than the previous AMP version.

What Lies Ahead For Mobile-First Indexing

Even though mobile-first testing is underway, Google will spend several months testing the new algorithm. No official date for the completion of this experiment has been announced because the search leader will need time to tweak the code. Despite all of the attention mobile-first, the new changes will not have a huge impact on rankings. Remember that it all still comes down to keywords and quality content, as usual.

Checking Your Site’s Readiness for Mobile-First Indexing

You can get a feel already for how your web properties will appear to the Googlebot-driven mobile user agent by visiting Google Search Console. Then follow these basic steps:

  1. Click the “crawl” option on the left side.
  2. Go to “Fetch as Google.
  3. Select “mobile smartphone” on the drop-down menu.
  4. Click “Fetch and Render.”
  5. See how mobile-friendly the crawler views your site.

What You Need to Know About Mobile-First Indexing

Google will eventually completely shift to one mobile index for crawling websites. At the moment the search pioneer is experimenting with new code to crawl both mobile and desktop sites, with a focus on favoring mobile sites, although desktop rankings should not be affected much.  Even though desktop sites will live on for now, it is to your advantage to start the process of moving to mobile-optimize your site.

One of the emerging trends to look for in the future is an increase in expandable content when you click a “read more” link, which provides easy navigation for mobile users.  Learn more about SEO Atlanta so that you are well prepared for the next generation of new digital marketing techniques.

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