Mobile devices are altering our lives.

Avid users are getting “text-neck” from bending over their tablets. Some people are so attuned to their phones they feel “phantom vibrations” from their pocketed phones even when they aren’t ringing or emitting text alerts.

It seems it’s only natural then that Google has been slowly elevating mobile websites to a place of increasing importance since 2016. The search engine is now using the mobile version of many websites to determine page rankings.

Mobile-First indexing

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

What does this mean?

Google web crawlers used to go to desktop sites first to determine search engine rankings. Now Google is going to mobile sites first to gather search engine information. Enter the term “mobile-first.”

While Google has not presented a timeline for transitioning websites to mobile-first, it is estimated that about 50 percent of pages have been transitioned to mobile-first indexing.

Think your site might be hiding in a dusty corner of the web and not popular enough to warrant being transitioned to mobile-first yet? Reconsider.

According to a mobile-first article on the site, ”When asked specifically for the criteria on transitioning websites based on ‘readiness,’ John Mueller of Google replied saying, ‘We don’t have a fixed threshold that’s easily comparable. So, we do take into account a number of things like the content on the page, the structured data that you have on the pages, the images, the videos, and internal linking. All of these things kind of add up for us and we try to look at it on a per site basis so we can say the site is pretty much ready.’”

With no set timeline or criteria for migrating sites to mobile-first, any site is eligible at any time.

What if you don’t have a mobile version of your website?

If you don’t have a mobile version of your website, Google will still crawl and index your desktop site. Google is not creating a separate index for mobile sites. However, you might want to consider establishing a mobile site because your website might not rank as high without one. Of course, lower rankings mean you won’t be found by as many users.

Is your mobile site helping your site rankings?

If you do have a mobile site, now is the time to ensure it is complete and contains the same content and links as your desktop site. You can check out your site using Google Search Console. Simply enter your domain information to measure your site performance and ranking.

Once you have entered your site information into Search Console, Google will send you a notice when your site is being migrated to mobile-first, if it hasn’t happened already.

If you have a dummy or placeholder mobile site, you should eliminate or change it. According to Bridget Randolph of Moz, in the mobile-first environment, it may be better to “have no mobile site than a broken or incomplete one.” Either one can hurt your site rankings.

What else can you do?

If you have both desktop and mobile sites, Google published a few “Best Practice” tips to ensure your site will be found in this new mobile-first environment.

If you have separate URLs for your mobile and desktop site (also known as m-dot), Google will go to the mobile URL for indexing.

Google advises:

  • hosting the same content on each site—if you have content on a desktop site that’s not included in your mobile site, it won’t rank with Google
  • including the same structured data on each site
  • using the same metadata on each site

Finally, ensure your mobile interface is designed well and loads quickly. Speed will also help your rankings. Learn about other SEO trends.

Of course, mobile interface design is a topic unto itself. Because of mobile-first, some developers are posing the question, “which should we design for first, mobile or desktop?” Read about one designer’s mixed emotions when dealing with that chicken and egg scenario.

We are here to help

Need more information about adding a mobile site or optimizing your existing sites for mobile-first? Sublime Creations can help. We are an eco-friendly company providing local and small businesses with website consultation, design and personalized training solutions. Contact Sublime Creations online or call to schedule your free 30-minute consultation.

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