In the past, Google’s crawling, indexing, and ranking systems only looked at the desktop version of a site’s content. Websites with vastly different mobile appearances and functionalities weren’t being evaluated correctly by Google’s systems so mobile users weren’t getting an accurate representation of the site’s content.
For mobile users, vital information was difficult to locate and links were hard to access. For websites, mobile traffic suffered.
As content began to shift from the horizontal to the vertical, consumer expectations increased for site functionality and design to translate perfectly on their mobile devices. In order to keep up with user expectations and to ensure that a website’s information was being located by audiences, Google needed to find a way to fix the flaw in their indexing system.
After a year of experimenting with mobile first indexing and figuring out the best way to roll out the change, Google announced on December 18th, 2017 that they will begin to use the mobile version of content for indexing and ranking to help mobile users find the information they’re looking for. According to an announcement updating publishers of the news, Google has begun to transition sites independently based on their readiness for mobile first indexing.
Site owners that are already utilizing responsive web design and dynamic serving won’t have to make any substantial changes but for those whose mobile versions are on a different host, Google has offered up some tips to help them re-work portions of their site so that they will be ready for the new mobile-first overhaul.
Some of those tips include, “making sure the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content; this includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos – in the usual crawlable and indexable formats,” and “ensuring URLs within the structured data are updated to the mobile version on the mobile pages.”
It’s vital that marketers are aware of these changes so that they can make sure their content will still show up in search results. Due to the significance of the change, the rollout will be slow and Google will re-index sites that are already correctly optimized for mobile viewing first. According to Google’s press release, “We believe taking this slowly will help webmasters get their sites ready for mobile users, and because of that, we currently don’t have a timeline for when it’s going to be completed. If you have any questions, drop by our Webmaster forums or our public events.
It’s common knowledge that we are living in an age of information overload and sifting through millions of pages of content is something most of us would rather not do. The challenge for content marketers is to get that content in front of as many people as possible. With mobile first indexing, Google has given sites a small, but significant visibility boost. However, even with the new indexing system and other mobile optimization changes, sites will still need to re-think the way their content appears on mobile platforms. The future is vertical and content must follow suit.