Google announced the Mobile First Index in back in November 2016. After one and a half years of tests and experiments, the rollout has finally officially started. Now, Google will use the mobile versions of a website to evaluate their relevance for mobile users. If you are running a website, you should now be looking for an optimal mobile version of your site. We’ll show you how!
Mobile-First: Index evaluates the mobile version of a website
In order to evaluate the relevance of a website for the majority of mobile users, Google now uses the mobile version of a page. Google uses the Search Console to inform site operators whose sites have been included in the Mobile First index. According to Google, there is only one index that the search engine uses for its search results. In its blog post it is also made clear that there is no additional “mobile-first index” that supplements a main catalogue.
What does “mobile-friendly” mean?
As already mentioned, “mobile-friendly” refers to the usability of a website on smartphones. The change in the algorithm affects mobile search queries in all languages worldwide. Meaning: If the contents of your domain are not “mobile-friendly” – i.e. not optimized for access via mobile devices – your page might be at a disadvantage when users are searching via a smartphone or tablet. Google indicates the mobile friendliness of a URL within the SERPs and warns the mobile user about non-optimized content.
How to make your website fit for mobile
Don’t panic! Many of the KPIs für Mobile SEO match the KPIs for desktop: Rankings, technical optimization, accessibility of your website, page speed, crawlability of content, etc. In addition to the similarities, there are some other aspects that you should look into.
First of all, check the percentage of your site that has already been crawled with by Google. This is also an important indicator of how Google “sees” your website: How often does the Googlebot visit your page and crawl it?
Responsive layout of websites
Responsive web design describes a technique that enables the content of a website to be displayed uniformly on various devices using HTML5 and CSS3 media queries. The advantage is obvious: The contents and the source code of a page are identical in the desktop and mobile version. A responsive design makes it easier for Google to interpret the same content of both variants. Also, pay attention to the correct implementation of dynamic content! In it’s “Best practices for mobile first index”, Google clearly recommends this type of technical optimization for mobile websites.
Independent mobile pages
Creating a separate mobile website, often located at “m.domainname.de” is still a popular option. Although the effort for page maintenance is greater, functions for the mobile version can be optimized in a targeted manner. For Google though, the website is created under two different URLs (domain.de and m.domain.de).
If you offer a separate mobile site, you should consider a few points:
- Google Search Console: All mobile websites should be submitted and verified to inform Google of the existence of a separate mobile version of a website. There is no need to change the Canonicals.
- Metadata: Title and Meta Description do not have to be identical 1:1, but should communicate the same on both versions. Attention: Both versions are optimized in the mobile version – due to the small screen size – and are therefore shorter.
- Open graph tags, twitter cards, etc.: Are these also correctly implemented and optimized on the mobile website? Query these functions for control purposes.
- Content: All important content (text, images and videos) of the desktop version should also be included in the mobile version. Don’t ignore the fine-tuning, such as alt tags for images.
- hreflang tags: Are hreflang tags set on the mobile version? Check!
- Sitemaps: A sitemap is a list of web addresses, the so-called URLs, that are available on a website. The sitemaps must also be accessible from the mobile website.
According to Google, you don’t have to do anything if you already have a responsive layout.
Have page checked by mobile user agent
Crawl your own website with the help of a mobile user agent. This will provide you with the following information:
- User friendliness assessment
- Website loading times
- Disturbing banners or interstitials
- Availability of the main content
Check Structured Markup
As early as November 2016, Google devoted itself in detail to structured markups in its Mobile-first-Indexing release. Structured data allows you to add markups to elements on your website.
These markups make it easier for Google to understand the data on the page. Avoid “large amounts of markup” in the future that are not relevant to the specific document. If there are two websites – the mobile and the desktop version – the desktop versions will in most cases have structured data, which is often missing on the mobile version. Make sure to add structured data to your mobile version.
It is best to check the markup structure of your landing page(s). Ideally, you should use one markup per page. The markup in the desktop version should be exactly the same as the markup in the mobile version.
Check desktop vs. mobile visibility
In the future, Google will only rate websites according to their mobile version, so it’s important to take a closer look at the performance of your website(s) in the mobile search results. Also compare desktop and mobile visibility with each other.
AMP: More power for your website!
Fast loading times and better user-friendliness – that’s what Google promises with the open source project AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). The main focus of AMP is on speed! The average loading time for AMP pages is less than 0.3 seconds. This means that it can be loaded on average four times faster than conventional websites. Another advantage: AMP pages require a much smaller amount of data – perfect for mobile users.
Since the smartphone is becoming an increasingly important part of our daily lives, Google’s introduction of the Mobile First Index is a sensible step. Mobile search queries are already surpassing desktop searches. Google has set itself the task of adjusting the algorithm and ranking to mobile websites. We recommend that you choose a responsive design for your website. If you want to continue to achieve good rankings on Google in the future, you should take a look at the above mentioned measures to optimize your mobile site.