What you need to know about mobile-first indexing

Author: Jack Martin

There’s not much time to waste, so we’ll cut right to the chase here and ask you a couple vital questions. Is your site mobile friendly? Is it responsive? Is it conversion rate optimized? Perhaps the most important question of all – Why is all of this so necessary?

In December 2016, Google announced that they would start experimenting with mobile-first indexing in the future. Just last month in December 2017, Google confirmed that they will officially be moving forward with their plan. The rollout will be slow, so you still have time to get on board! We’ve compiled a few tips and best practices so that you can stay ahead of the curve and make sure that your search rankings aren’t affected by this transition.

My site is already mobile friendly. Will this affect my rankings?

It could! Simply having a mobile-friendly site isn’t enough anymore. The best way to ensure that your website is fully crawlable and indexable is having your website built using responsive web design. A responsive website is built specifically so that it looks and performs great on any device.

Dynamic serving is another setup that improves the mobile experience. In laymen’s terms, this is your website varying the way it shares its content with the user depending on the type of device that is requesting the information.

If your current site hasn’t been built using responsive web design and dynamic serving, it’s not the end of the world! Google gave us all some tips to ensure that your site is ready for mobile-first indexing.

Ensure that your content is high-quality and fully optimized.
Structure your data in a clean manner. Organization is key to having an easily crawlable site!
Metadata is important and should be present on both the mobile and web versions of your site.
Your m. (m.keystoneclick.com) sites are okay, but if you’re using separate URLs make sure your canonical and alternate tags are set up.
Not to bully the "m. "(m.keystoneclick.com) type sites but make sure your site is able to handle increased capacity from crawlers.

What can I do to stay ahead of mobile-first indexing?

While it sure feels like we’re heading back to the basics of SEO, again, the tactics you need to employ are far from basic. Let’s start with the first tip Google suggests:

1. Quality, optimized content

By now you are most likely starting to get sick of this phrase and the thousand other variations of it. Unfortunately for you, it is not going anywhere. You can blame your friends, your family, yourself, and even us for this!

Human beings love quality content. So much so that it has the power to reach hundreds of thousands of people. It’s like a good joke. If you think something is funny, you’re going to want to tell as many other people as possible!

The second part to this is perfecting your content. This includes making sure that you understand the needs of your audience and their search intent and meeting them there so that you are using their language in your keywords.

2. Have clean, structured data

Almost anyone can learn to code nowadays, even computers. No matter if your site was built by a DIY website builder, your geeky nephew, or a professional web design agency, it all comes down to easy to read code. “Easy to read” may be relative to you, but to a crawler it isn’t. It’s this, or that, it’s up or down, it’s left or right.

Basically, at the end of the day just make sure your data is structured in a crawler friendly format.

3. Metadata

Not to be confused with the 160-character meta description. Metadata is crawlable information about your content. So, for text content it could be schema mark-up. For images and videos, it can describe how large they are, color depth, resolution, and when they were made.

Why is metadata important? Did you know that web crawlers cannot see and must somehow interpret the images and content we are uploading? They must read the… Metadata! Yes, exactly!

If you are not sure how to code in metadata or tags, then you can enter the properties of images (or videos) through your computer. Simply right-click the image > select properties > go to details and edit away. Some of these fields are editable but if not, there’s usually a good reason for it!

4. Your mobile-dot websites (Example: m.keystoneclick.com)

Remember the early days of phones with web-based capabilities? It was almost impossible to visit any website and carry your tasks out.

Drum roll, please! Introducing – mobile-dot websites, or “m.yourwebsitehere.com!” The “m.” told the browser that this site was the mobile version, you would be redirected to that site if you were on your mobile device.

Yes, these still exist! Often you do not see them anymore because developers have begun using responsive design and dynamic serving (There are those words are again!) And if you are using these, you will want to double check that your canonical and alternate tags are set up appropriately.

5. Increased capacity

Google is counting on an increase in mobile visitors going forward, so you should be too. Site speed and stability are directly related to your website’s user experience. If it’s loading too slowly or not loading at all, that’s a problem. If it’s being bogged down by the number of people visiting your site, that too is a problem.

How can you ensure that your site is loading quickly? Start by viewing the files you are uploading to your site. For example, what are the file sizes of your images and videos? Their size can make a visitor’s browser and device work harder to load large files.

You’re all set for mobile-first indexing

By taking these five tips into consideration, you will be well on your way to having a website that Google will easily be able to index, and in turn will be easy for your customers to find in searches. If you need assistance getting your website mobile-first ready, drop us a message. We’d love to chat about getting your website optimized for a mobile-first world!