Here are eight things you need to know about Google’s ‘mobile first’ indexing:
1. Why does Google switch to ‘mobile first’?
The majority of searches on Google are done on mobile devices. Google wants to deliver relevant results to the majority of searchers.
Until now, Google has indexed web pages as desktop browsers see them. With the new ‘mobile first’ approach, Google indexes web pages as mobile phones see them. The rankings will be calculated based on the mobile websites.
2. What do you have to do if you do not have a mobile website?
Google says that you do not have to worry about this: “If you only have a desktop site, we’ll continue to index your desktop site just fine, even if we’re using a mobile user agent to view your site.”
Of course, web pages that have been optimized for mobile devices get better rankings on Google Mobile than web pages that have not been optimized. For that reason, you should start working on a mobile version of your website now if you do not have one.
3. What do you have to do if you have a mobile website?
You have to make sure that your mobile pages contain enough content to rank your pages. If your mobile pages have less content than your desktop pages, your pages might get lower rankings with Google’s new ‘mobile first’ index.
4. What is the best solution to make sure that Google can see the content of my pages?
Google recommends responsive web design. The content on responsive websites is the same on desktop computers and mobile devices. The layout changes based on the device that is used to view the content but the content is the same.
Of course, you can also create a separate website just for mobile. In general, a separate mobile site is more work and more errors can happen.
5. What about content that is hidden in navigational elements?
On desktop pages, content that is hidden in tabs or expandable boxes has less weight than content that is directly visible. As expandable content makes sense on mobile, that content will be given full weight (provided it has been hidden in navigational elements to enhance the user experience).
6. Will my rankings change a lot?
Google says that there should be minimal ranking changes around this change. Of course, most websites already have good mobile sites or responsive sites.
If you do not have a mobile website yet, your rankings might change more than the rankings of a website that already is mobile.
Pages that are not mobile-friendly will not rank as well as pages that have been optimized for mobile devices.
7. Will Google have different indexes for mobile search and desktop results?
Google plans to have one index which is based on mobile content. During the testing period, there will be a desktop-first index and a mobile-first index. We won’t be able to find out which index Google will show us during that testing period.
8. What happens to the links that point to my website?
If you have a responsive website, you do not have to worry about this because the URLs of your mobile pages and your desktop pages are the same (actually, the pages are the same, they are only displayed differently on mobile and desktop).
If you have a separate mobile website, chances are that the mobile pages do not have as many links as the desktop versions of your pages. As Google’s search results are very dependent on links, the mobile pages with fewer links might get lower rankings.
Google hasn’t found a final solution to this problem yet. Google also said that the canonical attributes on your web pages do not have to be changed.
Although Google said they have already begun testing this mobile-first index to some users, it will still take some time until it goes live for all users.
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