Google Tests Mobile-First Indexing

11 November 2016

Google Tests Mobile-First Indexing

The majority of Google searches take place on mobile devices, yet – until now – Google usually uses the desktop version of a website to rank its content and relevance in search results.

As a bid to make its search results more relevant to the searches users are carrying out, and the devices they are carrying them out on, Google has begun to test various options for a mobile-first indexing of websites. The algorithms the search giant uses are being focused on the mobile versions of a website and will use snippets and data from the mobile version in the search results. If a website does not have a mobile website, Google will default to the desktop version instead.

Google reports that it will “continue to carefully experiment over the coming months on a small scale and we’ll ramp up this change when we’re confident that we have a great user experience”.

In the meantime, small- and medium-sized businesses need to really focus on making sure their websites will be ranked appropriately during this shift in focus.

This is what SMEs need to know and do:

1. If your website is responsively designed or a dynamic serving site, it should work well with Google’s new testing

2. If your content and markup are different across mobile and desktop sites, it is probably a good time to start making changes. Consider:
a. Testing your robots.txt to make sure that that mobile version of your website is easy and accessible for Google’s bots to crawl
b. Verifying the mobile version of your website in Google’s Search Console, as well as the desktop version
c. Serving structured mark up for both desktop and mobile versions so that they don’t clash or deliver inaccurate or faulty results when indexed in a mobile-first way

3. If you build a mobile version of your site (which will have to be done at some stage – it is impossible to get away with a website that is not mobile friendly any more, given the dominance of those devices for accessing online services and stores), don’t skimp and run a faulty or incomplete version of that site or launch it before it is ready. Pay proper attention to building a mobile site that is effective and that works smoothly before you make it widely available.