It seems that more and more people are doing searches on their mobile devices and not just their laptops.
That being said, Google wants its index and results to represent these mobile searches too.
Enter Google Mobile Index.
Up until now, a search engine index has been a collection of pages/documents that the search engine has discovered mostly through crawling the web through links from a desktop browser point of view.
With this new mobile-first index, Google will create and rank its search listings based on the mobile version of content. And here’s the kicker – they’ll be doing this even for listings that are shown to desktop users by crawling the web from a mobile browser point of view.
There are things you need to do to get ready for this new mobile index.
But don’t panic. It’s not as complicated as it seems.
If you have a mobile site, you’ll want to be sure that the content and links on the mobile site are similar to the desktop version. That way, Google can consume the proper content and rank your site as well as it did when it was crawling your desktop site.
It’s okay if you don’t currently have a mobile website, though.
While Google certainly wants you to have a mobile site, it will crawl your desktop version instead. For now, at least. You may want to consider making your website mobile friendly, though.
Google began testing this mobile-first index to some users in late 2016, but it looks like they are still months away from rolling in out completely.
Will links and rankings change because of this?
Well, here’s where it gets a little foggy.
Google is still testing out this new mobile index so, as of early 2017, they can’t say for sure.
Some have voiced concern. It’s a valid concern too since mobile content tends to have fewer links than desktop content. And since Google’s search results are quite dependent on links and content and both of these are impacted, then it’s possible the rankings will feel the ripple effect of this.
Time will tell.
In the meantime, take action to prepare your mobile friendly website for this transition.
Here are five things you can do to prepare.
1. Make your website responsive, but don’t rely on responsivity.
Responsive content is the first step in the right direction and it enables you to easily check it using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool. But having a mobile-friendly website requires more than just making it responsive.
Google has developed fact-checking tags for content that it indexes on desktop sites. These tags point readers to references and/or fact-check organizations that will then either support or discredit stated claims.
Tags are currently labeled as Highly Cited, Opinion, Local Source, and In-Depth.
Google will be creating these same fact-check tags on its mobile indexing as well. So if you want to come across as a trusted professional in your field, then your content’s claims should be backed up with references to authoritative first-person sources, and not to a movie star’s website or your cousin’s opinionated blog.
2. Kick up the content to your mobile pages.
Historically (short as the history is), website owners and developers have hesitated to create long form content mobile pages. Maybe because they didn’t want people running into a pole while reading on their mobile devices.
At any rate, they reserved additional text and keywords for desktop content.
But now that Google is planning to give preference to mobile pages, it’s time to update those mobile pages with the same content as their desktop cousins.
Content doesn’t need to be long and clunky on mobile pages. You can create bookmarks and anchor links to relevant areas that will direct users to those places that logically follow what was just viewed or read.
At the same time, the full-on content is still there for the reading.
3. And make sure it’s the correct content.
It’s not enough to ensure that your desktop website is mobile-friendly by only checking to see that it’s rendered on mobile devices. You have to be sure that your mobile website is providing correct content.
Websites rendered “mobile-friendly” are parsed into columns, with the mobile device displaying a single, scrollable column to the viewer. So this means that the content being displayed may differ significantly from actual site content.
And what happens then?
The page is deemed irrelevant and you do NOT want that.
4. Layer your mobile pages in an organized fashion.
So here’s the deal.
If you have a mix of pages that only blend into each other without any sort of order or structure, Google is going to penalize you.
Consider instead layering them into rational levels such as L1, L2, L3, etc.
Also, creating a sitemap of your content and sorting through your pages to understand how they are organized helps.
If a page is insufficiently supported, add structural pages. Any extraneous content can be repurposed into novel categories and topics. And finally, delete content that bears no resemblance to the main theme of the website.
5. Get your site’s load speed up to, well, speed.
When Google adjusted its search algorithm back in 2015 so that web pages that loaded faster would receive preferential display over slower ones, it was a game changer.
If you’ve got slow page loading speeds, optimize your content by eliminating very large images, extraneous ads and/or code and other heavy stuff weighing it down.
6. Don’t ditch your desktop.
This should go without saying.
Your desktop website is not going the way of dinosaurs. It will still be indexed by Google, so don’t let it lag.
Just because Google’s main focus right now is the launch of this rapidly updated mobile index of websites, it’s still going to index desktop websites. Just not as quickly.
Google’s new mobile index herald could be the beginning of a new era – when mobile websites will be the at the core of online activity.
Do you need help getting your website ready?