Earlier in November Google announced that they’ve begun experimenting to make their index mobile-first. Currently their ranking systems typically look at the desktop version of a page’s content to see if it is relevant to the user.
You’ll notice the two-indexing processing happening side-by-side if you search for exactly the same phrase on mobile and desktop – the results will be different.
Looking at only the desktop version is causing issues when the mobile page has less content than the desktop page, the reason being that Google’s algorithms are not evaluating the actual page that is seen by a mobile user.
Eventually, they say, their algorithms will primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages, to understand the structured data and to show snippets from those pages in SERPS.
User experience is still top of mind for the search engine giant, and they say they will tweak and test this the process before rollout to ensure users aren’t left with a unsatisfactory search-and-find experience.
Google has some recommendations to help webmasters prepare for mobile indexing:
- If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything.
- If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site. These include serving a structured markup for both desktop and mobile and using Google’s Structured Data Testing and robots.txt testing tools to compare and verify versions.
- If you are a site owner who has only verified their desktop site in Search Console, add and verify your mobile version.
- If you only have a desktop site, Google will continue to index your desktop site just fine, even if they’re using a mobile user agent to view your site.
They also recommend that if you’re building a mobile version of your site to keep in mind that a functional desktop site is still better than a broken or incomplete mobile version. Rather build up your mobile site and only launch it when you’re ready.
It’s important to note that sites don’t have to make changes to their canonical links as they’ll continue to use these as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user, whether they’re searching mobile or desktop.
Considering that it’s predicted that mobile-first indexing could be a reality as soon as by the end of Q1 in 2017, a mobile content strategy can no longer be a small part of a business’ consumer digital strategy; it should be the top consideration.