In the early days of smartphones, the ability to search the web on-the-go was a wonderful bonus. Few realized it would become the predominant search method for an increasing number of people.
Statistica reports that global mobile internet traffic rose from 31.16% in the first quarter of 2015 to 51.12% by the end of last year. However, the importance of the mobile information revolution goes beyond even that.
A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center revealed that 51% of people now use their smartphone to make online purchases. When you consider there are about 1.15 billion mobile daily active users, the commerce possibilities are mind-boggling.
In light of this, the world’s leading search engine is taking steps to make its rankings more indicative of user behaviour trends. Currently in testing, Google Mobile-First Indexing may well roll at some point this year, though there is no exact date at the moment.
As the name suggests, mobile-first indexing means the mobile edition of your website becomes the starting point for how Google determines rankings, replacing the desktop version.
It’s no longer enough for a business to have a website; it also must now be mobile friendly.
You have no doubt landed on sites that look tiny or horribly cropped when viewed on your smartphone. This makes a terrible first impression and makes one less likely to trust that company. Soon, it will also impact those all-important search rankings. Google will still crawl websites that don’t have a mobile version, but the search rankings for those organizations will inevitably suffer.
If you don’t have a mobile-friendly site, the Google Webmaster Central Blog offers steps you should consider:
Deliver an Equal Experience
Your mobile site must offer the same quality content and images as the desktop version. It’s quite possible that if the mobile version has less of either, Google will only index the former.
Strive to have your pages looking identical in both versions. Expandable content will remain important and should be fully accessible on mobile as well.
Structured Data and Metadata
Users expect the same degree of ease and navigation from a mobile site. Your structured data must be on both sites. The structured data’s URLs must also update to the mobile version.
Metadata must also be on both versions and should be identical. If some content has a different title in one version, this just creates confusion and can impact ranking.
You might have noticed from your site statistics that the mobile site’s traffic equals or maybe even surpasses the desktop. That trend will almost certainly continue, so if your mobile version is on a separate server, make sure it can handle this increased volume.
Separate Mobile URLs
When it comes to interlinking with separate mobile URLs (e.g. m.sitename.com), there are no modifications. If you use separate mobile URLs, you will simply retain the current link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between the two versions.
Because you have the potential to attract visitors from all over, alternate language options are extremely important. Review hreflang links on the separate mobile URLs. For sites with multilingual capability, be sure to link separately between the mobile and desktop URLs. It is imperative that the mobile URLs’ hreflang points to the other language and region equivalent on the other mobile URLs. They must also link the desktop with other desktop URLs that use link elements.
Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there.
Google has promised to roll out Mobile-First Indexing gradually to give sites time to make any necessary alterations. However, it’s always wise to stay on top of such changes as they will benefit your business in both the short and long term.