Uncovering the relation between
SEO and Mobile-First Indexing

SEO

Like all other Google’s initiatives, we have now come across mobile-first indexing. There has been much hype about this term as it is an initiative of one of the biggest technology companies. Moreover, experts are seeing it as Google’s move to make the internet friendlier for mobile users. It seems the increasing number of phone users is drawing everyone’s attention.

However, it is a relatively new thing. Many people and even professionals do not understand it completely. So if you are having trouble and doubts about Mobile-First indexing then it is not uncommon. Moreover, business owners are having problems comprehending the extent of mobile-first indexing.

It is necessary to remove all doubts present in this regard. You would not want to lag behind your competition just because of a new feature. The following article will help you remove all those doubts with ease. You will discover as to what is mobile-first indexing and what is the relation between it and search engine optimization.

What does it mean by mobile-first indexing?

Well, you can easily get an idea of the meaning from the name. Mobile-first indexing means that Google will now begin to consider the mobile version of the website first. It is the complete opposite method for the indexing of websites. That is so because the desktop version used to be the primary basis for search engine rankings. Mobile version of the website had always been sidelined as the secondary option.

Now, the mobile version of your website will influence the rankings of your desktop site as well. That is why it is not named as mobile specific. If the mobile version of your website is properly optimized or better optimized in comparison to the desktop version, then you will begin to see a climb in overall rankings. Your desktop website has now become the second option for the crawlers.

It does not mean that your website’s desktop has become useless. If your website does not have any mobile versions then the crawlers will only use the desktop website. However, the lack of a mobile version can lead to a significant drop in search engine rankings. A better built mobile site will boost your desktop rankings as well. Another thing to keep in mind is if your desktop version and mobile versions are equivalent, then you will not see any difference in the rankings at all. Even Google is saying that those with equivalent desktop and mobile websites will have no kind of changes occurring on their websites.

If you are glad about your current rankings then you do not need to do anything at all. It is just a theoretical change too. This basic change in the indexing strategy will surely have a huge impact on the market. That is so because Google has completely transformed its indexing. Before all this, it used to prioritize indexation on the basis of the desktop version. Mobile version of any website was always considered as the alternate version and it was not worth considering for things apart from mobile devices. Google began encouraging the use of switchboard tags to those who had a different mobile site. The purpose of the switchboard tags was to denote the presence of a mobile URL version. It used to do so with the help of a rel=alternate tag.

Such steps reduced the hassle of Google as it did not require to crawl the mobile versions of all the web pages of the particular website. It only had to display the specific mobile URL to the users who were using a mobile device for searching the query. However, the situation is different now.

The dominance of the desktop version also had a major impact on the strategies of SEO and marketing professionals. They used to make all the changes in the desktop website in most of the cases because the desktop influenced almost everything. From the availability of content to the presence of backlinks, the major concentration of the marketers used to be on the desktop sites. The mobile version of the website did not receive this much recognition before. It usually had some light content and a small number of features. Now, the scenario is sure to change.

What to do

You might be wondering as to what you can do in this regard. First, you should not worry too much. This change is still in its initial stage and it will not impact every website present out there. Google is ‘testing’ it so you do not have to stress on this subject. They have stated that they are slowly introducing this change and only to those websites which they consider to be completely ready. Therefore, no worries should be present.

Google has provided sufficient guidance on this topic. They have said that your rankings will not witness any changes if your mobile site is equal to your desktop website. And if your mobile site is better than the desktop one then you clearly do not need to worry at all. However, this notion applies only if you are happy with the rankings you currently have.

Even if your mobile website is properly optimized, you would not want to ignore page loading time and speed. They are now more important than ever to consider. If any images are present on the mobile page, then you should see if they are not slowing down the loading of the website. And any kind of content that used to stay hidden in the tabs due to the low availability of space will also influence the rankings. Before all this, such data did not have any impact on the crawlers.

The following are some things you would want to take care of while optimizing your mobile site:

Metadata of the site

You would want the metadata to be equal on both of the versions of your website. Any kind of deviation from this notion might lead to negative results. The lack of space in the mobile versions might cause some difficulty. But it would be better if you choose to keep the same keywords present in both of them.

The data on the page

The same thing goes with structured data. The structured data markup should be same on both of the versions. The presence of unnecessary data would lead to adverse effects and you would not want that to happen. Make sure that you remove any kind of such data. The URLs in the structured data should be the mobile version of the URL on the mobile pages. This is the best practice in this regard.

The content in the pages

Content matters very much. And many mobile websites do not have high-quality content present. You should keep the content of the mobile pages high-quality and valuable. It should be similar to the one present on your desktop version. Even the audios or videos should be of good quality. The format is also worth considering. It should be indexable and crawlable and all the images should have alt-attributes.

The Social Metadata and Hreflang

Social metadata should be properly present on the mobile version. It can include twitter cards as well as OpenGraph tags. Your desktop version should also have social metadata. Regarding Hreflang, it is important that your mobile URLs’ hreflang points to the mobile version of your country variant or language variant. Similarly, the desktop hreflang annotations should direct to the desktop versions. It is usually for internationalization only.

Media sitemaps and XML

If your web pages have any links to sitemaps then you they should be accessible through the mobile version of the website. It refers to all kinds of sitemaps and it even includes robots directives. You would also want to include trust signals in this regard.

Verification of Search Console

You cannot forget to verify the mobile version of your website in the Google Search Console. You may have your desktop site in the Google Search Console but it is important that the mobile version gets verified there now.

Indexation of apps

Your desktop site may have app indexation. You would surely want your mobile version to be verified in relation to the app associating files. It will help you keep everything smooth.

Capacity of server

Crawl rate will increase significantly for your mobile version. Therefore, it would be better if you re-check the servers to see whether they would be able to handle such traffic or not. You should note that you do not need to think much here if your mobile version is on the same host. You only had to do it if the mobile version was to be based on a different host.

Mobile switchboard tags

Another major thing to do is to implement mobile switchboard tags. Those who already have these tags do not have to do anything. It would be better if you leave them as they are.

Answering some frequently asked questions

Is there a separate index now as a result of the mobile-first indexing initiative?

The index is singular. There are no separate indices for mobile websites and desktop websites. It only means that the crawlers will now prefer mobile versions of the websites in place of the desktop ones. It is also true that there will be no separation in the index on the basis of mobile and desktop versions because of this step.

Is the mobile-first index working currently? Has it impacted my website?

According to Google, they have been working on this for a time now. They have experimented with a number of websites now, which they thought of as ready for this initiative. Such a step always takes a considerable amount of time. According to the officials at Google, development of an index that works solely on mobile-first strategy will take a number of years.
Even in their blog, they have clearly mentioned that they will take their time with this process. They do not want to speed it up as it may damage the current users of the platform. They also mentioned that they have begun experiments with certain websites and their search team is closely observing the end results.

You have sufficient time to prepare your website for such change. They do not have any fixed timeline for this process too. They want to make sure that no one faces problems because of any sudden happenings.

With a mobile-first index, when would Google use my desktop site for determining rankings?

The most probable cause for using a desktop version of the website would be the absence of your mobile one. Apart from that the chances of them crawling the desktop version, after going through the mobile version, are very low. It seems highly unlikely that the crawlers will keep going through the desktop sites just because some additional content is present there.
Moreover, there are no official statements about using the desktop sites for indexing after this step.

The best approach would be to have a properly optimized mobile website. In place of a damaged or poorly designed mobile website, it would be better if you have none. You would be better off releasing your mobile website after it is completed. Otherwise, it will hamper your rankings significantly.

What will happen if I do not have any mobile version of my website?

In this case, you should not fear about indexing. The crawlers would go to your desktop website if you do not have a mobile version. And if the desktop version is not optimized for such devices, your website will still get indexed. The problem is, you will face serious degradation in the rankings. The crawler will prefer the mobile websites so you will have trouble in that regard. In this case, you should not fear about indexing. The crawlers would go to your desktop website if you do not have a mobile version. And if the desktop version is not optimized for such devices, your website will still get indexed. The problem is, you will face serious degradation in the rankings. The crawler will prefer the mobile websites so you will have trouble in that regard.

Conclusion

Overall, it is a significant step for Google. It is certain to have a major impact on the websites present in the market. You should begin working on your mobile site too if you have not already. Still, there is not much to worry about and it seems they will take some years.

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