A Guide to Updating Your Website for Mobile-First Indexing

Google forewarned everyone about the coming of mobile-first indexing months ago. Now that it’s slowly rolling out, there are still a lot of website developers that have been caught napping on this trend. If you’re one of those who still don’t know what it is, here’s a guide on how you can get your website optimized and continue enjoying heavy traffic, as well as good page rankings. You wouldn’t want to miss out on this.

What is mobile-first indexing?

In the past, Google used to crawl your website’s desktop version to rank it. But with the boom of smart phones, people began to use their handheld devices, instead of their desktop computers, to surf the Internet more. As such, when a user makes a search query on a mobile, it shows results that are based on a system that ranks desktop pages first. The problem with this is that search results from desktop versions vastly differ from its mobile counterpart. To better cater to the majority of the users, Google rolled out its mobile-first indexing early this year.

Google’s mobile-first indexing simply means that it will prioritize crawling your website’s mobile phone version before checking its desktop version for indexing and ranking purposes. This gives responsive and mobile phone-optimized websites the upper hand when it comes to page ranking. But before you panic, do note that Google has said that it will still look into other factors when it comes to ranking websites such as page speed, load time, and, more importantly, relevance to the search query regardless of medium… for now.

How does it impact search engine optimization?

Google’s mobile-first indexing will certainly have an impact on how SEO works today, but it isn’t as big as some fear it to be. After all, most websites today are optimized to work on mobile phones.

If your website has a responsive design, then you have nothing to worry about as it shouldn’t be affected by this. Why? It’s because your website’s desktop and mobile versions may be technically the same in terms of design and content. “In terms of responsive design, it’s almost like a standard. Everyone should be doing it today. Everybody should be using responsive sites. The mobile site and desktop site should have a single URL,” according to Benj Arriola on Propelrr Take-off sessions regarding page performance for mobile-first indexing. So when Google crawls your website, it only sees one version.

So, which websites will get hit hard by the mobile-first indexing ranking system? Well, Google laid out a quick summary on how it will affect different kinds of websites:

  • As mentioned above, websites with responsive designs won’t be affected.
  • Desktop-only websites will experience no change as the mobile version is the same as the desktop version.
  • Canonical AMP web pages will also see no change.
  • Google will prefer to crawl the mobile version first for separate URLS, dynamic serving, and non-AMP websites. It would be best to prepare by following Google’s best practices.

It can be observed that mobile-first indexing will greatly affect websites with separate versions or pages for their mobile and desktop versions. So, how do you adapt to mobile-first indexing? Read on to see how you can prepare for its full implementation and enjoy its benefits.

How do you make a mobile-first indexing website?

Website optimization for mobile-first indexing isn’t as hard as you think. Most website platforms nowadays are optimized to be mobile-friendly. But if you’re building one from scratch, here are the steps that you can take to get your website up to speed according to Google.

For those with separate URLS or web pages for mobile and desktop versions:

  • Your mobile website must have the same content as your desktop version – text, images, videos and all. Make sure images are crawlable by using alt tags.
  • Both versions of your website should have the proper structured date in place.
  • Both versions of your website should have the proper metadata in place.
  • Verify both versions via Google Search Console.
  • Link hreflang links separately for desktop and mobile URLs for multi-regional and multilingual sites.
  • Make sure your servers have enough capacity to handle the potential sudden increase in crawl rate on the mobile version of your website.
  • Check if your robots.txt is working properly or as it should be. See if it allows your website to be crawled in the right places.
  • See if both versions of your website have the correct rel=canonical and rel=alternate link elements.

If you think you already have a mobile-friendly site, there are always ways on how you can optimize it to rank better with Google’s mobile-first indexing scheme. Here are a few tips:

Enable browser cache – this will store resources onto a browser’s cache so that when the user returns, it will load images faster.

Optimize images – a smaller file size and image dimension will help make your website load faster, especially for those who are using mobile phones.

Make your content concise – some experts believe that if you make your content concise, it will lessen the data that needs to be loaded. Users will also be able to find what they are looking for faster, hence, improving your search rankings.

Don’t use flash – there’s a reason why this has been killed off by Apple a long time ago. Aside from the fact that it takes a lot of time to load, there are new ways to create new interactive elements in your website using HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript.

Load CSS firstplace your CSS on the header and Javascript at the bottom to enable a faster loading time and to prevent browsers from redrawing certain elements so that the user isn’t shown a white page until it loads completely.

Maintaining and optimizing a website for seo can be a handful, especially when Google implements a new protocol. Although adhering to Google may be a lot of work, the good news here is that your website will definitely benefit from it as it ranks higher and gets more traffic, which could lead into an increase of profit.

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