What Google Mobile-First Indexing Means in SEO
It about everything in digital marketing is going mobile-first. Think of marketing email design, think of marketing campaign planning, and of course, think of Google’s new mobile-first approach to indexing web pages for search results.
We’ve heard lots of online chatter about the importance of aligning SEO practices with Google’s mobile-first policy – but we haven’t found much practical advice on how exactly to do so. This article is our response: a simple set of actionable tips that will help you adapt your SEO practices to suit mobile-first indexing.
Google goes mobile-first: a very brief background:
Since November 2016, Google has used mobile-first indexing to deliver search results. Basically, it means that if you have isolated websites for mobile and desktop users housed on the same domain (rather than a single responsive site), Google will consider the mobile version of your site as its primary source of search ranking signals. Previously, desktop versions came first.
What this means for SEOs
Expandable content is in!
In the days of desktop-first indexing, Google may have viewed expandable content tucked away in devices like envelopes and accordions unfavorably, or even with suspicion. The expandable content wasn’t supposed as vital to the good user experience of a desktop site, and as such, it bore less weight in terms of providing SEO benefit than comparable content that was fully on display.
But the perception of expandable content used in a mobile view is entirely different. Gary Illyes, Google webmaster trends analyst have confirmed that expandable content will be given full weight where it has been instigated for UX purposes – and broadly speaking, that means expandable content in mobile views is in.
We would always advise rolling out changes to your content strategy iteratively and with a degree of caution, but effectively Illyes’ statement taken as a green light for using expandable content on responsive sites. That’s great news, as it means we can include plenty of high-quality content without sacrificing the clean and clear web design that’s so important to mobile users.
There’s now a greater need to have plenty of content on your mobile site. If you have historically treated your responsive website as the smaller fraternal of your desktop site, we would strongly advise you to change your policy.
As we know, mobile website versions now come before desktop versions as the main source of ranking signals – and that includes content, which still remains the most crucial of search ranking factors. This means that you should be aiming to include lots of content – particularly headers and copy – on your mobile pages.
You can simplify the task by going responsive
If you don’t have a responsive website already, now would be a great time to make the switch. A plethora of benefits come with using responsive design – but we’ll focus on those which relate specifically to handling Google’s mobile-first indexing:
CSS media queries are used to present content differently according to the device which is further used to view the site – so you could have your long-form content on full view to desktop users; and tucked away in an envelope for mobile users, as we discussed in an earlier part of the article.
It simplifies your site’s relationship with search engines – if you have a single, responsive site, the search engine will measure your website as a whole, that allows you to move onward with a unified content and SEO strategy. In our eyes, that’s far simpler than managing two versions with a mobile-first bias.
Implementing bespoke responsive web design isn’t typically in a search marketer’s job description, so your job here will likely be to convince key stakeholders within your organization/your clients to invest in a responsive overhaul. If you’re working with a client who is happy to use an off-the-shelf responsive WordPress theme (or similar), you may feel confident in setting it up for them yourself.
Think deeply about the mobile user experience
You know that factors like dwell time and bounce rate can affect a webpage’s search rankings – but do you know your content’s relative performance on these metrics in mobile and desktop views?
By identifying the content and content features (i.e. content length, the presence of rich media, subject matter) – which yield the best engagement figures on mobile, relative to desktop performance, you can optimize your content strategy for mobile-first.
Do take care to note the effect of your strategy changes on your desktop engagement data – you’re aiming for net gains in your metrics across all device types.
Take it further
The SEO/digital marketers who will gain the most from the switch to mobile-first indexing will be those who get maximum value out of their most mobile-friendly content. Try picking out a landing page that strongly engages mobile users, point some high-quality inbound links at it and gives it an extra boost with some sponsored posts on social media, targeted at mobile users. By supporting your most naturally talented content with strong supplementary marketing, you’ll increase your chances of gaining outstanding search rankings.
Author’s Bio: I’m currently working as Content Manager with SEO Experts India. I have a great passion for digital marketing and I help small and medium-sized businesses improve their online presence through SEO packages India and grow their revenue by formulating effective digital marketing strategies for them. Apart from Digital Marketing, I have a keen interest in Entrepreneurship, Outsource Link Building Services, Online Reputation Management, Quality Link Building, Tech Consultancy, etc.