Last month, Google officially started using their method of ‘mobile-first indexing’ across their search engine. This is big news, and it’s something that could have a significant impact when it comes to your visibility on the web. So, what changes have been made to Google’s algorithms, and what can you do to best adapt your website?
What is ‘mobile-first indexing’ anyway?
In September 2020, Google announced they would primarily be using mobile devices to index websites within their search engine. This is due to the massive influx of mobile users on the web in recent years. In essence, this means that Google will rank your site in its search engine mainly based on the content shown on its mobile version.
Now, this might not alarm you at first. After all, it’s the same site, with the same content, so nothing should change, right? Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. There are a lot of factors that dictate how authentic a mobile site is in the eyes of Google. In other words, you can have an amazing desktop website, but if it’s poorly adapted for mobile, there’s a good chance it’s not going to appear as high on Google’s search results.
If the mobile version of your websites contains sections where the user has to load more content via an action (such as a read more or a + button which reveals information that was originally hidden, there is a good chance that Google’s going to avoid it completely when indexing your website. It’s extremely common for mobile versions of websites to simplify content, as there is a much smaller screen having to display the content. However, we’d recommend you check that your content across your site is visible across all devices without anything having to load separately. One thing you should check is the ‘Accordion’ sections on your site, which are commonly seen on FAQ pages for example. If the user has to interact in order for the content to load then it won’t be indexed, meaning your FAQ page will serve no purpose in aiding your search results.
Blocking & robots.txt file:
Your robots.txt file tells Google which pages can be requested from your website. With mobile-first indexing now in place, you must ensure that the URLs for pages on mobile and desktop are the same. If they are different, there is a chance that when indexed, Google will leave out desktop content. It’s worth checking your robots.txt file and your web pages to ensure that URLs match across all devices. You can find a link to a handy tutorial on how to check your robot.txt file by clicking here.
Making sure content is the same:
This kind of follows on from what we’d written for ‘Lazy Loading’, but we’ll stress this once again. If your web content is displayed on the desktop version of your site, that isn’t present on mobile, it will be ignored by Google! Check to see if elements are ‘hidden for mobile’ on your site and see if the content on the mobile version of your site is equivalent to the content on the desktop. If things are simplified or hidden on mobile, there’s a good chance your website will be negatively impacted.
Optimising images on your website is something that should be prioritised regardless of mobile-first indexing. Essentially, images on mobile devices should be of good quality and size. If not, these won’t be picked up during Google’s indexing process. Images also need to make sure that they have alt-tags describing them. If images are hidden for mobile, they will not be considered during indexing. Another factor is that if images or videos are pushed off of landing pages due to new content being added on, they may be missed on during indexing, as the user would need to scroll down to see them, and they would not be visible when a user ‘lands’ on the page.
We hope that this guide can help you in ensuring that your website is well adapted for these changes which are now in place. However, do feel free to get in touch with us if you have any questions, and we’ll try our best to help you out where we can.