Tarun Gupta

Google Goes Mobile-First: What It Means for Your Website

Tarun Gupta | Nov 7th, 2016 | Digital Marketing
Mobile First Index

In my two previous posts on 'Mobile First Index' I have covered its crucial points in detail. This is the third installment on the topic that will consider Google's purview.

Yesterday, Google released a document on the upcoming Mobile First Indexing change that Google has already started rolling out. With the update, Google sets to prioritize the indexing of mobile websites over desktop websites. That means, from now onward, mobile websites will be considered first for ranking signals by the search giant.

Google's Product Manager Doantam Phan confirmed that the update has already entered the testing phase within the mobile search results.

The official document released by Google answers so many questions and concerns of the webmasters and SEO community. Some of the key takeaways of the paper are sorted here in brief.

Why Google Has Made The Change?

Even I was inquisitive to know why Google took the step when all was going well with Desktop's first indexing. With the document, Google made it clear. A website serves different content to users on mobile and users on desktop websites. The content for mobile users is usually shorter and compressed, while content served to desktop users is detailed and in-depth. It hurts user experience as a mobile website is not able to deliver the diversity in content that desktop websites serve. And as desktop websites are indexed first, webmasters don't take mobile content seriously.

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Who Will Be Under The Scanner:

The document explains who will be impacted more by the update. Google says that while all the websites will be ranked according to their content on the mobile version, the update is an alarm for the site owners who- 1) serve different content to mobile users compared to desktop users and 2) have removed structured data markup from their mobile pages.

Website owners whose websites deliver similar content on their desktop and responsive versions, shouldn't need to make any changes to their websites.

Websites With URL m.website.com May Be Hit:

The update could impact websites that utilize m.website.com configuration and are completely different from its desktop versions in terms of content and user experience. Most of the time a desktop website is entirely different from its m.website.com version. Therefore, if pages on the mobile version of the website have less content, those pages could see a drop in rankings for the keywords, irrespective of how good they are doing on their desktop version.

Do note that if a content page could face ranking and traffic drop if the content missing from the mobile site.

Google Search Console Verification:

In case a website owner sets up a mobile site on a subdomain or in a different domain, he is required to verify the website in the Google search console. Once verified, emails and notifications will be sent to you about issues such as crawl errors, Googlebot blocking, and manual actions. This is worth noting that Google considers www.abc.com and m.abc.com as different properties, therefore you must verify both versions to get the full data.

How Mobile-First Index Will Treat Canonicals:

Google doesn't have any plans to change the way canonicals function. The document says that they will continue to carry weightage all along, and will serve appropriate results to users searching on desktop or mobile. The noting comes as a sigh of relief for webmasters and website owners who own sites with a large number of canonicals in place.

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Structured Data:

In case you have removed structured data from your mobile site to speed up the website, you will need to add that back to the mobile page. Failing to do so could result in losing the rich snippets once Google implements the mobile-first index finally.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Google confirms that there wouldn't be any impact on mobile pages that also have their AMP versions. But, it's worth noting that AMP won't offer any solution for missing content either in mobile-first index configuration. If your AMP version of the website has full content, while the mobile version has a reduced amount of content, Google wouldn't rank the content based on the AMP page. However, if a site only has AMP pages as its mobile pages, then Google would rank the AMP.

Tagged In: Google

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