In April this year, Google rolled out the Mobile-First Index, responding to the increasing use of mobile devices; the importance of a mobile-optimized website is higher than ever.
Experts from the digital agency DUSK Digital regularly explain relevant topics from the field of search engine optimization (SEO) to you.
The Mobile-First Index is all about mobile search. Mobile-First means that Google rates and indexes websites primarily based on their mobile version instead of the desktop version, as was the previous standard. Furthermore, there is only one index.
Its basis has only changed. This means that the content of the mobile pages is now decisive for the ranking. Based on the prioritized evaluation of mobile content, Google wants to help mobile users answer their search queries appropriately. Of course, this is a response to the increasing use of mobile search: an estimated 57% of search traffic occurs via mobile devices.
What Does the Mobile-First Index Mean for
In the course of increasing digitalization, every website should have a mobile-optimized version. Mobile optimization is important, and not only because it is Google’s recommendation. Above all, think about your users and answer the following questions:
- What content are the users interested in?
- How do they find the content quickly?
- How can the usability of the website be made as pleasant as possible?
Act according to the motto “Users First”. Pay attention to the changed circumstances that the mobile search brings with it. These include a different search and user behavior on mobile devices than on the desktop and a different representation in the SERPs.
With the mobile optimization of your website, you can address these changes. You have three options for this:
Your website has a version that is automatically adapted to the screen size of the device via CSS. According to Google, this is the recommended approach.
Depending on the device, different content of your website is displayed to the users. The server transmits different HTML versions under the same URL depending on the device.
Each desktop URL has a URL that displays the content optimized for mobile devices (“m.dot site”). So there are two versions of your website, one for desktop and one for mobile.
Why Does Google Recommend Responsive Web Design?
Compared to the other options, responsive websites present a single, general-purpose website design, which is why the development and maintenance effort and the susceptibility to errors are lower. In addition, it is not necessary to have a high budget for web crawling; the website only has to be crawled once to find all versions of the content. This allows more content to be indexed indirectly and kept up to date.
There are also some advantages of responsive design from the user’s perspective. Responsive websites adapt automatically to an end user’s device, resulting in shorter load times as redirects are not required.
When Should Website Owners Act?
According to Google, website operators do not have to change anything on their website if the following conditions are met: The website has a responsive web design or the website has implemented the dynamic provision of the content without errors (equivalent content and markups for mobile and desktop). If this is not the case, optimization measures are required.
SEO Tips for the Mobile-First Index
Check the Status of the Website
Use programs like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Tool to find out if your website is optimized for mobile devices.
Verify Both Website Versions
If you have a mobile site but have not yet entered it in the Google Search Console, you should do so urgently. In this way, you convey the existence of this website version to the search engine.
Optimize Mobile Loading Times
Since the Google Page Speed Update in July 2018, the loading time on mobile devices has been a ranking factor. The faster your website loads, the better. Google recommends a maximum duration of 3 seconds.
You can reduce your loading time with various measures, such as image optimization, reducing 301 redirects, or reducing CSS and HTML resources. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool analyzes your website and provides helpful tips on how to improve its speed.
Use Structured Data
Structured data helps the search engine understand the content of your website more easily. For both website versions, you should use structured data that also match. Compare both versions of your website using the structured data testing tool.
All of your URLs should have complete metadata that is equivalent for both website versions. The metadata of both versions should therefore contain the same information and keywords. The title and description for the mobile version can be slightly shorter,we currently recommend a title of around 65 characters and a description of 100-145 characters.
Make your mobile website accessible to the Google Bot. To do this, you should define in the robots.txt file in the root directory of your website which sections of your website the desktop crawler and which the mobile crawler can access. The robots.txt testing tool is helpful for checking.
Check Hreflang Links
If you have a multilingual website, you should check your hreflang links and make separate shortcuts between mobile and desktop URLs. This requires that your mobile website’s links point to the mobile version of the other language variants and the links of the desktop version to the respective desktop URLs.
Make sure your content can be crawled and indexed, e.g., setting alt attributes for images. The “thumb-friendliness” of the mobile website is also particularly important– ensure your site elements are easily clickable and that fonts are legible. Test this extensively!
Create Sufficient Server Capacity
Make sure that your server can handle an increasing crawl frequency.
If you currently only have a desktop version of your website, Google will still rank your website, but it will use its modern mobile crawler. So, it is likely that your website ranks worse than mobile-optimized websites.
If you’re building a mobile version, don’t be too bold. According to Google, a working desktop website can be better than a broken, incomplete mobile version. You should use caution when launching your mobile website, publishing it only when you know it is complete.
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