The move to a mobile first index is more inevitable than it has ever been. More than half of all online traffic now comes from mobile platforms. This trend continues to grow every year. Although 44 percent of traffic is still coming from the desktop environment, once Google makes the switch and the priority to mobile official, users will likely speed up their migration.
In order to understand how the change to a mobile first index may affect you, you should know how your site is currently indexed.
How Your Site is Currently Indexed on Google
In its current form, the Google index bases your search engine position on the content that comes from your desktop website. If the mobile first switch is made, the engine will base your search position and subsequent visibility primarily on the content that is on your mobile site.
If you have what is known as a “responsive website,” you may be able to see the changes in Google through with no change in your own visibility. This is only true, however, if your desktop website and your mobile website have the same content.
A responsive website means that you cannot have a /mobi/ setup – you actually must have special programming in your website to transfer the desktop experience into the mobile space. Because mobile screens are smaller and skewed vertically instead of horizontally, maintaining a fully responsive website can be a daunting task for a company without the expertise.
When Google makes the switch to a mobile first index, companies with less content on their mobile sites may experience negative effects. In most cases, a business is forced to reduce the amount of content on its mobile site as compared to its desktop site simply because there is less space on the mobile screen than on a desktop screen.
Quality Neutral Search Results
Google has stated that it will roll out the mobile first change when the results that the change gives are “quality neutral.” This is a techy way of saying that Google does not actually want the results in search to change much at all. Google is always looking for a way to improve the relevance of search results for its site users. If the switch to mobile upsets their current efforts in that way, they will wait to roll out the mobile first change.
Because of this incredibly important metric, Google may actually roll out the mobile first change in batches rather than doing it all at once. Rolling out the change in a batch means that it will only affect a certain type of website, leaving the rest on the old system until that batch is quality neutral to the satisfaction of Google decision makers.
How These Changes Affect You
Google has an enormous amount of power in making this switch. As a private company, they do not have to answer to anyone or even take the time to explain their changes to the public. However, Google is hell bent on remaining the dominant force in modern search. As such, they are highly sensitive to any accusation that they are “breaking the Internet” when imposing the mobile first switch.
Google employees have actually made statements that they do not want to negatively affect sites that are not mobile friendly with the change. This will be nearly impossible, however. It is definitely best for all companies to invest in a responsive website experience.
If your mobile website content is fundamentally different from your desktop website, then you should consider making changes to upgrade the mobile site. Google is likely to flag sites that are not mobile, meaning that .m and .mobi sites will soon become a thing of the past for up-to-date companies.
If you cannot create a responsive site, then when Google goes mobile first, you need to go mobile first as well. Make updates considering your mobile site your primary site rather than the desktop. An advantage here is the new ability to “hide” content behind accordion tabs. The limited size of mobile screens has forced Google to reconsider its stance on this issue specifically.
What You Can Do To Prepare
- Get informed. Read Google’s blog post about the mobile response change.
- Make sure you have a mobile responsive website or plan on creating one.
- If you have a separate mobile website, make sure your primary content is on that site.
- Make sure you verify the mobile version of your site within Google Search Console
- Focus on mobile site speed.
- Use AMP pages.
By following the tips above you’ll ensure that your business website isn’t negatively affected by Google’s mobile first indexing update.