Google’s Mobile-first Indexing. What Does it Even Mean?
Since we were introduced to the iPhone, mobile internet usage has been rising and now has overtaken desktops as the most popular method of browsing. StatCounte reported that since it started recording global browsing habits in October of 2009 that mobile internet consumption has now overtaken desktop for the first time. As of October 2016, mobile internet usage accounted for 51.3 percent compared to desktop at 48.7 percent.
Google seems to have taken notice of this trend in mobile internet consumption; Google has now started to “test” mobile-first indexing on websites. Google saw that mobile search queries are higher than that of desktop, yet it still evaluates websites based on their desktop version. To fix this Google will start looking at content, structure and links of the mobile version of your site if one is available.
To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we’re going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.
No Mobile Site? No Problem!
If you currently don’t have a mobile version on your site, this won’t be anything to cause concern. Google will just continue to use the data from your desktop site to rank your site. This will also be applicable if you have a responsive site.
Do You Need To Do Anything?
If you have mobile and desktop specific sites, there are a few things you can do to ensure you are ranking well if not better with these new changes on the way. Here are some of the things you can do to ensure you are ready for mobile-first indexing:
- Make sure to serve structured markup for both mobile and desktop version. You can test structured markup across mobile and desktop sites through the Structured Data Testing Tool and compare the output.
- Using the robots.txt testing tool to ensure that your mobile version is accessible by Googlebot (may as well check your desktop site while you are there)
- If you are the website owner or webmaster, ensure you have your mobile site verified in Search Console.
Google states that they are only currently testing mobile-first indexing, but with how internet consumption trends are progressing I would assume it will be around to stay.