In early November, Google announced that they would slowly be making the transition to mobile-first indexing. This change is a response to the fact that these days, more people are searching from mobile devices than traditional desktop computers. Google’s ranking systems typically look at the desktop version of a web page’s content to evaluate relevance for the viewer. According to Google, “This can cause issues when the mobile page has less content than the desktop page because our algorithms are not evaluating the actual page that is seen by a mobile searcher.”

So, to make their content more useful to users, Google has started to experiment with making their search engine mobile-first, with the aim of (eventually) primarily using the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, understand structured data and show snippets from those pages in results. Are you a die-hard desktop user? Don’t worry – Google assures that although their index will be built from mobile documents, they will continue to provide a great search experience for all users.

How to prepare your business for this change

Although this process is only just beginning, it’s important that you start preparing your website to be mobile-first. Here are some ways you can prepare your business for this change:

  • Run a mobile friendly test to make sure your website is optimised for mobile use. Check out Google’s primary mobile guide for more information on optimisation.
  • Check out Google’s how-to guide, which helps you to make sure that your 3rd party hosting site is working right.
  • Make sure that your site has responsive design.
  • If you have a site configuration where the content and markup of your site is different on mobile and desktop, you are going to have to make some changes.
  • Run structured data tests for both URLs and compare the output. Adjust any errors but avoid adding any markup that isn’t necessary to mobile sites.
  • Run the txt testing tool to make sure that the mobile version of your site is accessible to Googlebot – this will be key for indexing.
  • If your site has canonical links you don’t need to make changes. Google claims that they will “continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile”.
  • If you have only verified the “desktop version” of your site in Search Console, you will also need to verify the mobile version.
  • If you are building a separate mobile site, don’t rush it. Google will continue to index desktop sites, so you don’t need to scramble to release your mobile site before it is ready.

If you have specific questions on your mobile site and the mobile-first changes, you can contact Google Webmasters directly. The mobile-first change will take a while to roll out, so in the meantime, do what you can to get your mobile website optimised and ready.

Stay tuned on the Webmaster blog for more Google updates.