Google’s Mobile First Index Explained
As web traffic moves more and more to mobile, Google continues to update its search engine algorithms to meet the demands of technologically-savvy searchers. In fact, Google has rolled out a Mobile-First version of its search engine index–this is the massive catalog of data on every web page in existence.
With the index, Google will display relevant results to searchers. Previously, Google looked at web pages through a desktop searcher. Soon, Google will place the first priority on the mobile versions of each web pages and second in priority are the desktop versions.
In this scenario, mobile first means any page that can be correctly viewed on a mobile device. Since the mobile version is treated as the primary site for your business, it means businesses need to beef up content for this version. Here’s a complete guide to what this means.
Challenges presented to SEO
With the Mobile-First indexing, Google may organize its index based on entities–this includes how keywords and language interact with entities. Google wants to understand the relationships between different ideas and their descriptions.
Here’s how Dave Davies, a columnist at Search Engine Journal, describes entities, “an entity is not simply a person, place or thing but also its characteristics. These characteristics are connected by relationships. If you read a patent, the entities are referred to as ‘nodes,’ and the relationships as ‘edges.’”
Think of the Knowledge Graph, and how Google organizes a hierarchy of relationships. It is not based on language, but, is rather a conceptual idea of understanding. And, entities can be depicted by feelings, concepts, keywords, pictures and more.
If Google’s updated index was based on entities, then it no longer has to search through languages and keywords. Google can, instead, look at entities and then move to varying languages when required. Even domains and brands can be entities. For example, all of Google’s global offices and international websites can be grouped together and considered one entity.
A brand’s entity could include videos, apps, podcasts, maps, and more. But, with search engine optimization, it’s keywords that matter. Yet, a more efficient form of search is to search by the entity. Yet, entity indexing has been a modifier with Google for a while.
But, the Mobile-First indexing may mean that the index will be organized based on the Knowledge Graph–as opposed to the link graph. As they say, Google giveth and Google taketh away. Google may have created the link and keyword-building community, but they can also take it away. Entities are powerful because they offer a more efficient way to search, and they overcome language barriers.
With the Mobile-First indexing process, Google may evaluate content for its mobile functionality with the domain considered an entity. Old desktop content will remain on the index, but, won’t receive any value. Links will still play a role, but they won’t be as important for indexing. Over the long run, Google may replace the link graph with a version of a Real User Metric.
Instead of looking at how Mobile-First indexing will affect the crawling of your site, think about how the bot will render pages. If domains and URLs are simply facets of a domain entity, then crawlers can always look at deep links and regular web URLs. Google might even index CSS grid layouts.
Perhaps it will be like removing the paper version of documents and replacing them with their digital counterparts. With the digital version, you wouldn’t need multiple copies in multiple languages–just one version can be translated instantly.
Moving towards an AI-First strategy
The initial days of the Internet saw around 300 million people searching for basic queries and answers. Today, there are around 3 billion Internet users. Google CEO Sundar Pichai sees a logical transition from Mobile-First to AI-First. Google Assistant is already available, but that is only the beginning.
In fact, all the tech giants, and startups are investing in AI. This is a world with universal computing, available on connected systems at home, in the car, and at work. Think of how smart appliances will affect search and so on.
You see, it won’t be just about devices–it will be about screens and the types of screens. Eventually, we’ll have holographic screens so, devices won’t really be needed either. How people access and interact with data will continue to evolve. And, your business should respond accordingly.
Think of the impact Mobile-First indexing will have on the world. In the long run, it appears to be a push for multi-sensory data across a wide variety of devices that bridge the gap between on and offline resources. In terms of online shopping or mobile shopping, retailers might move from having to update their inventory every 24 hours to utilizing Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory processes.
Through product sensors, Google can pull information from many sources including driverless cars and home appliances. Through connected devices and Big Data, every company will become a tech company by default.
Think of AI, combined with voice search, cloud data, and more to create seamless shopping delivery for any product or service you can imagine. And, Google has been rumored to be working on a cross-device OS that supports both the Android OS and Chrome.
Fully optimize your mobile site
When it comes to search, the objective is to have your entire site available for searchers to view. It can be a struggle to strip content that may clutter smaller screens. How do you decide what you can afford to strip down? Since Google announced its strategy to move forward with a Mobile-First index, the question remains how this action may affect the structure of the web.
In addition, stripped down content affects link structure–which, is what helps raise your rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPS). Furthermore, it is still unknown how Google will crawl with its bots. Will the bots also be Mobile-First? On the other hand, what if the bots are mobile-only?
In this context, it is critical to remember that Google isn’t eliminating the desktop index–they are just putting mobile first. And, it makes sense since most search traffic now comes from a mobile device. Google is in the business of ensuring high-quality and relevant results. As such, they have to meet the needs of the modern market.
At the same time, they want to find good content–and, that requires the desktop bots. Here is what Google wrote in its announcement:
If you are building a mobile version of your site, keep in mind that a functional desktop-oriented site can be better than a broken or incomplete mobile version of the site.
Google is stating that it’s better to have a fully functioning desktop than it is to have a broken mobile version.
In terms of links, this means that external links can be picked up in both the desktop and mobile site. If you have good, in-content links, they will show up in both the mobile and desktop crawl.
With Google’s index, the mobile version of your site will be the launch pad. For instance, when you view crawlbot traffic heading to your site, you should see an increase in the Smartphone Googlebot.
Even if you still only have a desktop version of your site, you can still be included in the index–but, the price is fully-optimized mobile sites may experience a rankings increase.
To put it another way, your mobile site may be considered the main version of your webpage. As a result, now is the time to fully optimize your mobile site.
Make sure your mobile site is equal to your desktop version
If you have implemented responsive design, then, Google’s Mobile-First change should not have a significant impact.
Yet, even with a responsive site, you want to verify that your mobile page speed, load times, and images offer a consistently good mobile experience. On the other hand, if you have a distinct mobile site, you should check for the following items:
Metadata–Make sure all titles and meta descriptions match your desktop.
Structured data–Include the same structured data markup. Use mobile versions of URLs shown in structured data.
Social metadata–Your mobile site should have the same social metadata.
App indexation–Make sure you’re using a verified mobile version.
Search Console verification–Add your mobile site.
Content–Add all your valuable content to your mobile site, and ensure it is crawlable and indexable.
Switchboard tags–Implement mobile switchboard tags.
Server capacity–Your servers should have the ability to handle a larger crawl rate.
Back in 2015 and 2016, released an updated called Mobilegeddon that was designed to make the web more mobile-friendly. But, for years, Google has been rewarding sites that offer full mobile compatibility. To Google, mobile-friendly means sites that can be viewed correctly on a mobile device.
Google wants to make sure that people can view your page nicely, along with all your content, without having to zoom or scroll down repeatedly. You should take a gander at Google’s mobile-friendly test to see if any of your mobile pages can use an update.
Google wants your mobile site to convey the bare minimum of mobile-friendliness. Yet, with the Mobile-First index, it makes sense to go the extra mile.
When you consider the fact that most of the world’s information was created in the past several years, it makes Google’s efforts seem astounding in terms of cataloging all that information. Google wants the information, and, also, how to access that information. Yet, when you update your site, it is often the case that old content remains.
So, there is new content being added every second–to the index–and, this is on top of old content. At the same time, Google has warned us against removing old content so that archives remain for searchers.
Given the vast amounts of data, Google has to keep up by making their processes more efficient and applying more stringent standards to their algorithms. They use sorting signals such as micro-formats and Schema to help keep crawling simple.
SEO is important to your business, but don’t freak out. The information and tactics above will help with your preparation for Google’s continued Mobile-First rollout. For now, place a priority on your mobile experience. Ensure your website is responsive and has a solid SEO foundation.
Don’t want to keep up with all the updates and changes? Let Build Your Online handle it!
Don't want to keep up with all the updates and changes?
Let Build Your Online handle it!