Following an extended period of testing and experimentation, Google has provided the clearest signs yet that full migration over to its new mobile-first index is firmly on the horizon.
A brief overview of Google’s Mobile-First Index
Most of Google’s searches have been conducted using a mobile device for some time now, but when determining the value of a web page and organising search result rankings, the search engine giant has only been taking the desktop version of a website into consideration.
As the popularity of mobile browsing has increased, a variety of issues began to emerge with this setup. The content hosted on mobile and desktop versions of websites isn’t always entirely consistent and many desktop designs have lacked the functionality required to provide mobile audiences with a positive user experience.
To address these concerns, Google began working to develop a mobile-first index which would primarily look at the mobile version of a website, with the ultimate aim of ensuring its search results are consistently more useful for all users. Following several successful small experiments, Google announced that it would be pushing ahead with a full-scale rollout, which prompted businesses to invest in functional mobile-friendly websites to ensure their online presence was appropriately tailored for on-the-go browsing.
Initial migration testing
Google has recently confirmed that it has migrated a small handful of websites over to its mobile-first index and they are currently being monitored closely for testing purposes, but it looks like it won’t be too much longer before more websites are added.
It will be clear from a quick glance at your crawl stats whether your website has been migrated, as you will experience increased activity by the Smartphone Googlebot which will be highly visible throughout your log files.
How to effectively prepare for Mobile-First Indexing
It is imperative that the mobile version of your website contains the same high-quality content as your desktop website. Pay particular attention to your text, video content, and still images, and ensure that each contains the appropriate alt tag attributes to guarantee that Google’s bots can effectively crawl and index your content.
Implementing a full program of metadata across your desktop and mobile sites is also important. Providing Google with the crucial understanding of both the content and context of your website is key to ensuring your business is visible within results pages for important and relevant search terms within your niche.
Both search features and indexing also rely heavily on structured data, so this is something that should remain consistent across your desktop and mobile sites. It is particularly important to ensure that all URLs within your structured data which are directly related to your mobile pages have been updated to the mobile version.
Finally, ensuring that your servers have the capacity to fully handle the potential for an increased crawl rate is imperative for all websites that are not utilising responsive web design or dynamic serving. If your mobile version is hosted separately, for example m.website.com, this is something that your team should consider.
Remember that Google is keen to maintain transparency and provide consistent updates throughout each stage of its mobile-first process, leaving you free to focus on ensuring that both your desktop and mobile websites contain fully optimised, relevant and high-quality content.