Making the Change
Google’s recent decision to shift from desktop-only indexing to determine organic SERP placement to a split index that evaluates both the desktop and the mobile version of websites is the end of an era — a big opportunity for organizations who are on top of their SEO. Not only that, but Google will actually prioritize mobile search over desktop, meaning pages that were built several years ago when mobile browsing was in its early stages may be incorrectly indexed for the future. Mobile responsive themes are considered to be a minimum requirement for the future. However, there are plenty of nuances you need to keep in mind or you’ll risk losing valuable search results placements on Google.
Preparing for Google’s Mobile-First Index
Mobile browsing finally overtook desktop interaction for the first time in October 2016, as smartphones, tablets and various sizes of non-desktop devices become the norm. This seismic shift in behavior will continue to drive how brands interact with their customers in the future. While many businesses have been prepping for the eventual rollout of mobile-first indexing, Google continues to be a bit cagey around exact timing. The prevailing thought now is that Google is nibbling around the edges of a release; the full shift is expected to happen sometime in 2018. Fortunately, this gives organizations a little time to get ready by updating or even overhauling websites to ensure mobile-first index compatibility.
What Google Says
Google spokesperson, Gary Illyes, provided some insight on preparing for Google’s mobile-first indexing. He mentioned in a recent tweet that removing noindex tags and n1 redirects from your website are good first steps towards getting ready. Both pieces of information are recommendations around how your mobile site should be indexed, but here’s some greater detail:
- N1 Redirects / Faulty Redirects: When a user accidentally ends up on a page that they didn’t intend to visit, this is considered a faulty redirect, and they happen more than most brands want to admit when there’s a jump from social media or email links to a website viewed on a mobile browser. While many companies have been actively squashing this issue on their sites, there are still plenty of examples. This happens when you click through to a website on mobile, yet get switched immediately to the mobile homepage.
- NoIndex Tags: While there are some legitimate uses of the noindex tag, this is often a relic left behind on pages that will block the page from being indexed by search engines at all. One of the key uses of this tag is blocking a “thank you” or completion page from a sales funnel.
Mobile Responsive Isn’t Enough
If your next step is to create a website that’s poised for the mobile-first index, choosing a mobile responsive theme isn’t enough. The starting point for the design process is with the small screen. Even if your Google Analytics shows that the majority of your visitor still come from desktop. The mobile-first index rewards sites that cater to the small screen experience.
What do you need to get ready?
How can we help?
What do your links and content say about your site’s SEO? What does your data say in Search Console?
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