Google Mobile First Index: In the last six months, the Google Mobile First Index has become one of the main topics in the IT environment. And this is not surprising. This is the biggest and most radical change in the latest history of the search engine.
Among the general noise, it’s easy to get lost in what you really need to know about this update. The corporation regularly updates the algorithms for analyzing sites and compiling them from the issuance. This innovation is the next stage of Google’s development.
Table of Contents
What Is the Google Mobile First Index?
Google scans sites to add then their pages to the search index, for this, it uses a special bot to surf sites. The boat behaves like a real visitor and goes through the links on all pages. All this time, Google scanned sites as a desktop user, but now the company will crawl the sites as a mobile user. And it makes big changes to the usual scanning.
Sometimes sites display different content for desktop and mobile users, often latter pages have significantly fewer links and text compared to the desktop version. As a result, the search bot will analyze only the content for mobile users. It will rank it both in mobile and in the desktop search.
To understand the whole process, it is worth sharing the options for adapting the platform for portative devices to:
- Adaptive design;
- Dynamic display;
- Different URLs.
In adaptive design, URLs and HTML remain unchanged; with the dynamic display, the URL remains unchanged, but the HTML code changes; with different URLs, URLs and HTML are different.
Why Is This Happening?
At the end of 2015, it became officially known about the onset of the mobile era: the number of mobile search requests exceeded 50%. People began using google more often on phones than on a computer or laptop. A year later, in November 2016, the Google mobile index started testing. Desktop version became secondary. When ranking a platform on any device, the system will rely, first of all, on filling the mobile version of the site.
Currently, not all platform-owners care about the mobile version. They offer a worse or “stripped down” interface for the user of the portative device. And the platform looks not so good as on the computer screen. However, everything will change soon.
How to Pass the Test?
Google has submitted a list of recommendations.
- It is important to make sure that the version of the resource for smartphones contains all the necessary content, or at least the most important. It is recommended to emphasize texts, pictures (it is necessary to check alternative names) and video;
- Data must necessarily be structured and applied to the computer and mobile version;
- Must have meta-data for each version. You should make sure that the name and meta descriptions are the same for each version. A check should be done for all web pages;
- You do not need to change the transition between mobile and desktop. It is recommended to leave the standard rel = alternate and rel = canonical tags. If you use the hreflang attributes, enter links only within the same version of the resource. In other words, hreflang tags for the mobile platform necessarily send the user to versions for Android devices with the appropriate language, and desktop tags indicate the full version of the platform with the necessary language adjustments;
- You should take care of sufficient hosting capacity to withstand the load from the crawling. The problem for owners of adaptive resources is not known, only the sites with a dedicated URL for the mobile version are affected;
The Most Common Questions
The principles of optimization with respect to the Google mobile first index are very simple, but they lead to the appearance of some important questions since with the introduction of the new algorithm the SEO-promotion strategy will be adjusted.
How will the content of the tabs be ranked?
Today Google gives a minimum priority to any invisible content or found in tabs, however, in the version for smartphones, it is convenient to use a tab system, which is what most users use.
How will the influence of the tabs affect and should you expect any changes at all?
Google employee Gary Ilsh notes that with the introduction of mobile-first index tabs will be given due importance, but provided that they are created to the usability of the user.
Will the ranking of the full version of the resource be changed?
The key objective of the mobile-first index is to optimize and improve the experience of using the search system by users of mobile platforms. Global and cardinal changes will not be observed. So we can conclude about the minimum innovations and changes.
At the same time, the index for the mobile and full version will be one, that is, there is a more severe dependence on both versions. If the resource uses heavy content or code that lowers the download speed, there are no corresponding headings, key text, or there are other problems, you should expect a drop in the issuance of both the version for the smartphone and the computer.
Is it planned to introduce separate indices in the future?
From the point of view of logic, it is justified to use one system for a mobile platform and another for a desktop platform. Google did not announce such plans.
Google Mobile First Index: What to Check on Your Site?
Let’s deep in details.
Go to the mobile version of your platform and answer yourself to a few questions:
Can you say that all the content of the platform is available on the smartphone screen?
Can a user just as easily and simply use the sites with his portative device, as on a laptop?
One of the important points for your work on the platform is the actual content of the platform in the mobile version. If you are still removing or hiding the content on the mobile version, think about how you can use this content on any device. The content should be available in full.
Make sure you also find the best way to move this content to your mobile site. You do not have to sacrifice your user interface just to fulfill this requirement.
For example, do not put a block of content on 300 words at the top of the online store page, moving all your goods down. Think about how to put the content at the bottom of the page. Or partially hide it by clicking the “Read more” button or otherwise. In addition to the actual content of the pages, check that your headings (H1s), Title and Description are in place and set as you want them to be.
Platform Pages Speed
The speed of your platform is an important thing to consider in order to improve usability, especially on portative devices. Google already takes into account the speed of the page when ranking, and it will be just as important when calculating the portative phone’s index.
To test whether you need to do anything about this issue, test your platform in the PageSpeed Insights tool from Google. In addition, use the GTmetrix platform selection tool. If there are any problems, fix them!
If your platform does not load in about three seconds, you need to investigate the reasons for this and understand why your platform is slow. GTmetrix has a great Waterfall feature. It will help you see which queries are slowing down your site.
Internal Layout/Platform Structure
A known problem with sites is when the internal links are very different from the desktop site. This can cause some problems with the user interface for visitors, as they struggle to find content that can be easily detected on the desktop version of the site.
Similar difficulties arise when Google scans a mobile site. If your internal layout/information architecture on the mobile platform is not the same as what is seen on the laptop screen, this can lead to the fact that the internal communication will be poorly distributed throughout the site, which will lead to a lower rating.
In many cases, structured data is removed from the mobile version of the site. You will have to move it to a mobile platform since Google will start searching for them for users. With a special program, check whether the structured data on both devices is the same.
Projections for the Future
Obviously, in most cases, the mobile version of the platform is not able to provide visitors with convenient and comfortable access to content. Platform owners are focusing on the desktop version. Google is trying to solve this problem.
It is also expected that future updates to the Google mobile first index will be more stringent for those sites that reduce the mobile site’s potential for excessive advertising. If you use a mass of ad units in a mobile version, stop doing this: think about how you can make advertising less intrusive. Obtrusive advertisements will not bring you revenue: it’s bad for your brand, users, and traffic. There are ways to implement advertising without harming the comfort and functionality of the site.
To ensure that you do not experience negative effects, make sure that your user interface is equally comfortable and meaningful on both the mobile and desktop versions of the site. Carry out a full-fledged check on the mobile version of your platform to exclude at least one of the above problems. Perhaps you should consider creating a new platform that could meet all the current requirements because the maintenance of a web resource that does not have the necessary flexibility can cost too much.