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After setting a goal in 2016, Google announced last month that mobile-first indexing will be the new standard by September of this year. This is not something new. In fact, Google has been slowly testing this functionality for months and over 70 percent of search results are mobile-first indexed. Most sites are ready for this. But in case you’re still not sure, let’s break down what this means for website development, CX and how it will impact your SEO — all critical in digital transformation.
First Issue First: Why is Mobile-First Taking Over?
To understand why Google is making this change, it’s important to know that the way people use the internet is changing. The types of search returns that used to show up in Google’s top spots may no longer be relevant for today’s users. In fact, Google is working hard to redefine what “relevant” actually means, based on user data, time of data, device, etc.
For instance, research shows that users are changing the way they search online. Rather than searching for short, clear topics like “history of Winston Churchill” or “MS research,” users are making much more conversational searches. What’s more, their searches are increasingly personal. Research shows for instance that there’s been an 80 percent plus increase in mobile searches for “should I …” and “can I …” phrase in the past two years. More and more, users are asking Google full questions like, “can I buy stamps at Target?” and “is a plant-based diet good for me?” And for Google to return a “relevant answer,” it needs to change the way it searches for information. Enter, mobile-indexing.
So—How Do I Prepare for Mobile-First Indexing?
The good news is, it should be a fairly seamless transition. That said, it’s up to you to make sure that your website content is structured in such a way that Google can find it for users who want it. And luckily, Google wants you to be successful. It’s even created a ton of developer tips to ensure that you are. I won’t go into all of them here, but the following are just a few of the major things to keep in mind as we head toward a mobile-first indexing system.
- Make sure Googlebot can access/render your content. This means using the same meta robot tags on your desktop and mobile sites. In addition, realize that Googlebot won’t load content that requires user interaction, such as swiping or clicking, so make sure the bot can see it up front. It’s also recommended that you use the same URL for your mobile and desktop sites.
- Ensure that your mobile site has the same content, structured data, and metadata as the desktop site. In the past, many companies would put less info on the mobile site—just enough to ensure a quick load of information, assuming the user would visit the desktop site if they needed to. Google says: don’t do that anymore. If you do have less content on your mobile site, your full library of desktop content won’t be indexed. This will likely lead to less traffic—and fewer customers.
In addition to the above, Google also offers some tips for ensuring that your ads, images, and videos are in good condition for the mobile-first indexing switch.
If you’re currently in a dead panic, you can relax. Google has been introducing mobile-indexing throughout its sites over the past couple years, and 70 percent of pages it highlights in search are already indexed this way. The change to 100 percent mobile-indexing should not be jarring for your company. But, if you haven’t been paying attention, it’s a good time to start thinking of how your customers are using your content, how they’re most likely to find you, and what content will be most relevant to them.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.