The introduction of the Mobile First Index has long been speculated about in the SEO industry. Google has confirmed that the mobile pages will be used primarily for indexing and ranking to present mobile users with a better result.
Nobody knows yet whether classic websites will lose traffic and rankings. Google writes that desktop sites do not have to fear ranking losses, but here the coming months will show first experiences.
Since Google has already begun to gradually move to Mobile First, you should take steps now not to follow up your rankings later.
What does Mobile First Index mean?
Google has so far indexed websites by first crawling the desktop version. Based on this, a related or equivalent mobile variant was crawled and indexed.
Google has decided to provide a common index for mobile content and desktop content so that mobile users can no longer see the desktop version and because the mobile search volume has increased. This means that desktop and mobile content are included in a common index.
Check if your SEO is ready
If you don’t have a mobile website, Google will continue to crawl and index the desktop version in the future. Nevertheless, we – and Google – recommend to create a responsive website. If you already have a responsive page, you are on the safe side. However, it should still be tested with various tools whether a website is recognized and indexed by Google accordingly. Since there are many mobile users, a mobile version of the site or a responsive site is actually a must and brings advantages in ranking.
So do the Google Mobile Friendly Test and take a look at the recommended measures. The Google Search Console may report bugs in usability on mobile devices (buttons too large/fontsize too small and similar). With the Search Console you can also realize the retrieval of your website like Google. For this you have to select the setting ‘Smartphone Mobile’. So you can see how your website is seen by the Google Bot.
The roll-out has been expected by Whos Talkin SEO since the end of 2016 and a test phase has been announced. Since the announcement, SEOs have been speculating, especially in the social media, about how the Mobile First Index will continue until Google announced in March 2018 that Mobile First Indexing would begin. Google confirmed in the course of that that web pages, with which primarily the mobile sides are already indexed, get a message in the Search Console.
What action do I need to take?
The recommendation is clearly to create a mobile responsive website and also to realize the responsive web design.
Google has published a tutorial that explains step by step how to move an “m.subdomain” to a responsive variant.
If you already have a responsive site, the following audits and analyses can help you to ensure that your site is well recognized and indexed by the Google Bot.
If you are planning a move, you should carry out these three audits as preparatory measures:
Configuration independent audit
A configuration-independent audit analyzes and considers your onpage factors independently of the mobile configuration. You will then receive recommendations for action.
Configuration dependent audit
3rd Mobile Parity Audit
The Mobile Parity Audit checks whether mobile content and desktop content are identical. This is important for the Google Bot to recognize your responsive or mobile page as the equivalent of the desktop version. It doesn’t matter anymore whether content is hidden content or whether content is stored in hidden or collapsed tabs. Google has already announced that this approach can be implemented as a web design solution.
What happens next?
Google has probably been experimenting with the technology of crawling and indexing mobile websites for several years now.
As soon as a page changes to the Mobile First Index, you will receive a notification in the Search Console. You can also check the log file data to see whether the mobile crawler’s accesses are higher than those of the desktop crawler. This also points to the mobile index.
The conversion of the index should be done very carefully so that desktop-only pages are not neglected and traffic and ranking drops are minimized. Some pages may remain Desktop-First.
Whether mobile websites will be preferred in the future is unclear. Nevertheless, Google clearly recommends that you provide a mobile version. With the increasing number of mobile users, you should not do without the mobile user friendliness anyway, because that could bring large declines in the number of visitors.
Also the time of the conversion for each individual page is not known, so you should be prepared at any time.