The considerable worthiness of optimising a website for intuitive use on mobile devices is nothing new. These days, smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous; whereas mobile users numbered just over half a billion worldwide in 2010, that tally has since reached touching distance of three billion.
However, it was only last summer that Google fully switched its crawlers to ‘mobile-first’ indexing. What does this mean for your website? Quite a lot of your mobile optimisation efforts have been lax.
Ready your site for the ‘mobile-first’ revolution
On its Webmaster Central Blog, Google has explained what mobile-first indexing entails: “we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.” That’s a major shift from Google’s previous desktop-first approach.
Google added that it relies on just one index for generating search results, rather than separate “main” and “mobile-first” indexes. Rest assured that, if your website only has a desktop version, it won’t be penalised. However, if your site’s mobile offering falls significantly short of its desktop alternative in Google’s measures of quality, you should act to reduce or eliminate that discrepancy.
Why m-dot websites aren’t, well, on the dot
You might be old enough to recall when loading a website would bring up not its full-flavour desktop offering, but instead a stripped-down, mobile-friendly alternative with ‘m’ in place of ‘www’ in its address. However, this trend has fallen out of favour for several reasons.
One simple reason is that we are no longer wielding relative primitive Nokia phones that probably even strained to load PDF files. Another reason is that, with a ‘responsive’ web design, you no longer need to maintain separate ‘mobile’ and ‘desktop’ versions of a site to stay competitive.
If you are still maintaining such versions, it would be wise to fully migrate your site to a responsive design before mobile-first indexing crawlers pay a visit. Google discourages webmasters from keeping m-dot mobile pages if those same pages also have responsive versions, as this arrangement will confuse the crawlers.
Are there certain ‘golden rules’ to follow for ‘mobile-first’ success?
Many of the usual tips for driving success in Google’s SEO rankings continue to apply. Naturally, a website’s ease of use is forefront in Google’s mind – and, given the convenience of a fully responsive design, don’t be surprised if having one shields you from any adverse ramifications of mobile-first.
Still, verify that your mobile users can access all of the same content – including text, images and videos – as your desktop users and that your txt directives work as they should for both types of users.
Mobile-first indexing has not made its way to all websites in Google’s index yet, with that transition anticipated to take years. However, as Google recently announced that over half of the pages in its search results have now been mobile-first indexed, you should act quickly.