Last Friday, 4 November 2016, Google made a a major announcement entitled "Mobile-first Indexing". In short, this means that they will now be crawling and indexing mobile versions of a website before desktop versions, as part of the organic ranking algorithmic process.
Why has Google gone mobile-first?
The reasoning behind this is simple. More people use Google Search on a mobile device such as smartphone or tablet, than on desktop devices (including laptops). To date, the Google search algorithm has focussed primarily on desktop pages, which, considering the above, simply doesn't make sense.
This major change therefore deals with that gap, with the key objective of ensuring the biggest (mobile) audience sees the most relevant - and therefore useful - results. This sits nicely in line with Google's ongoing aim to deliver useful, customer-centric, engaging pages.
The impact of the mobile-first change?
Let's be clear about this: If a page isn't mobile-friendly (least of all mobile-ready), it will drop in ranking. Sorry if that sounds a little harsh, it's nothing personal!
Think about it; when you search for something on Google, you expect to see a list of relevant results, right? Let's take that a step further and say that when you click through to a website from one of those results, you want to be able to read what's on the page, with no huge images that take an age to download, clear calls-to-action, and buttons and links that actually work when tapped, correct?
Well that's what Google is basically getting at; those websites that perform well across all device types, and which offer a quality mobile online experience, will have no problem at all ranking following the update.
Are you affected?
How does your own website perform on a smartphone or a tablet? Are you about to see your Google rankings take a dive, or are you good to go?
If you don't own, operate or work with a mobile-friendly website, here are our 5 tips to mobile-first recovery:
Mobile-First Tip #1: CHECK
Check if you do in fact already have a responsive or mobile-friendly site. How? Get your phone out, take a look, and see how you get on. Easy eh?! Having to pinch and zoom left, right and centre, or tap links and menus 3 or 4 times before they open up? These might not be great signs.
Mobile-First Tip #2: VERIFY
The more SEO-savvy amongst you will know all about verifying your website via Google Search Console. If you have a different mobile version of the website, add and verify that version too.
Mobile-First Tip #3: MARKUP
If you have structured markup on your desktop site, make sure to have something similar for the mobile version too - just remember to keep it neat, which will lead to a faster-loading, easier-to-read mobile website.
Mobile-First Tip #4: TEST
Once you've finished with all the fixing, make sure you tell Google! Head over to the Google Search Console again and test your robots.txt file to make sure it can be crawled, otherwise how will Google be able to see all that hard work?!
Mobile-First Tip #5: ANALYSE
Our final tip is to look at whether any of this has made a difference. Make your way to Google Analytics and take a look at your content performance against various device types and operating systems. How are the respective different device audiences doing in comparison with each other?
We're here to help!
With years of collective experience in all things SEO, as well as producing award-winning mobile-friendly design and development projects, we would be more than happy to run a mobile optimisation audit on your website and help make sure you're not affected by Google's latest change. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.