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Google’s Mobile-First Indexing Has Arrived

     -     Apr 12th, 2017   -     Search Engine Optimization   -     0 Comments

In a previous FlashPoint Marketing blog post, the subject of Google’s mobile-first indexing was discussed, however testing had not yet begun. This explains Google’s most recent announcement that they have begun experiments to make their index mobile-first a priority. For those who are unsure what this means, essentially Google is going to rank its search listing on mobile content first. This will be done even if the search is being conducted on a desktop computer.  It’s a huge shift that underscores the importance of having a mobile website and ensuring the site is accessible and indexable in mobile format. To help clients and others understand these changes and how to adapt, FlashPoint Marketing has provided some tips below.

Tips for Preparing for Mobile-First Indexing

Google’s announcement indicates changes are ramping up, and as a result, it is important now more than ever to ensure that your mobile website is prepared for the shift. Following the below tips will help:

  • Ensure that your firm’s website serves pages either responsively or dynamically. Responsive design means that pages on your site will respond to various devices – desktop all the way down to mobile – changing as the devices changes. Responsive designs use CSS breakpoints to change the layout as the window is resized and/or collapses down. A desktop monitor is very different than a mobile monitor. Therefore, your site must respond accordingly. This ensures a positive user experience no matter what the user’s device resolution may be. Dynamically served pages use the Vary HTTP header to signal changes that depend on the user agent. Mobile user agents will receive a mobile page and desktop user agents will receive a desktop page. Of the two options discussed, responsive design is preferred.
  • If your site’s primary content differs between its mobile and desktop sites, it is critical that a markup is used for both versions of the site.
    • Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version. Sites can verify the equivalence of their structured markup across desktop and mobile by typing the URLs of both versions into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing the output.
    • When adding structured data to a mobile site, avoid adding copious amounts of markup that isn’t relevant to the specific information content of each document.
    • If you have both a mobile and a desktop site, check your mobile site’s robots.txt file and ensure that it is fully crawlable. This can be verified with the robots.txt testing tool in Google Search Console.
  • According to Google, it is better to have a quality desktop site than an incomplete mobile site. Ensuring that your mobile site meets all best practices before launching, is a wiser decision than launching before it is ready.
  • If you have a separate mobile site, ensure that both the mobile and the desktop version of your site have been submitted to Google Search Console.
  • Finally, whether you have a separate mobile site or are using one of the techniques in the first bullet point to ensure that users are served an appropriate page on the fly, each page type should be checked in Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool. Pages that are not mobile-friendly should be optimized in accordance with Google’s mobile site guidelines. These include specifications on sizes of fonts and tap targets (such as buttons and links), distances between tap targets, viewport specifications, etc.

What If My Firm Doesn’t Have a Mobile Site?

For those firm marketers out there reading this – if you don’t currently have a mobile version of your website, you don’t need to worry… yet. Google will continue to use the desktop version of your site to rank it in search results. How your website will be affected is that your firm will not benefit from the mobile-friendly ranking boost. (This is important to consider because as more searches are conducted using mobile devices the firm stands to lose out on important traffic.)

FlashPoint Marketing will continue to post about this topic as changes are released and announced. As we see changes to the Google results and index, we will report back to you with any issues. When this mobile-first index fully rolls out, we will let you all know.

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