Are You Ready for Google’s Mobile-first Algorithm in 2018?
Yes, you heard it right!
The next big Google algorithm is coming soon – Google is releasing a new mobile-first algorithm update beginning early 2018.
Google will change the way it ranks your website, which means your search engine ranking will be now determined based on your site’s mobile experience and not your desktop experience.
In other words, Google is going to see your mobile site as your “primary site”, without exception. So, if your mobile site experience isn’t up to par, your ranking will definitely take a hit.
What’s Changing with Google’s Mobile-First Algorithm?
Up until recently, Google and other search engines have been desktop-first. They indexed and ranked websites — regardless of whether it was designed for mobile, tablet, or desktop devices — based on desktop ranking signals. This made sense because searchers were primarily using desktop computers.
Now, however, the reverse is true. More Google searchers use smartphones than any other device. Mobile usage is beginning to outgrow desktop usage.
According to independent web analytics firm StatCounter GlobalStats, mobile and tablet devices accounted for 51.3% of internet usage worldwide in October compared to 48.7% by desktop.
Aodhan Cullen, CEO of StatCounter said:
This should be a wake up call especially for small businesses, sole traders and professionals to make sure that their websites are mobile friendly. Many older websites are not,
Mobile compatibility is increasingly important not just because of growing traffic but because Google favours mobile friendly websites for its mobile search results.
Mobile search usage is also expected to rise to 221 million by 2020. Therefore, it makes sense for Google to switch its entire index to a mobile-first orientation.
How to Prepare for a Mobile-First Index?
If you have a responsive website or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is same across mobile and desktop devices, you are already in a good shape but if you fall outside of those parameters, you should consider making some changes to your site.
Google has given some specific recommendations to prepare for the mobile-first indexing in their official announcement. Here are few steps you can take to ensure that your site will easily weather the storm.
1. Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile Friendly
Use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test tool to check your website’s mobile-friendly score and see where your website stands. If you don’t see positive results, Google will prepare a report for you. It will highlight the main problem areas.
2. Speed up Your Page-loading Times
Website loading speed is one of the signals used by Google’s algorithm to rank pages, and it’s critically important with a mobile-first index. Google says that 53% of mobile users will leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
Head over to Google’s PageSpeed Insights to see how you are doing.
3. Be Careful with Intrusive Interstitials and Pop-ups
Google’s also been cracking down on interstitials that ruin the user experience. As a result, any website found guilty of showing intrusive popups, banners or overlays (called interstitials) will see its content demoted in Google’s mobile search results.
4. Update Your Site Configuration Markup
- If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site.
- Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version.
- Sites can verify the equivalence of their structured markup across desktop and mobile by typing the URLs of both versions into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing the output.
- When adding structured data to a mobile site, avoid adding large amounts of markup that isn’t relevant to the specific information content of each document.
- Use the robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot.
- Sites do not have to make changes to their canonical links; Google will continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile.
5. Verify Your Mobile Version in Google Search Console
If you are a site owner who has only verified their desktop site in Search Console, you should add and verify your mobile version.
If you want to succeed in this increasingly competitive environment, refreshing your website is one of the best investments you can make in 2018 to drive leads and revenue.
It is time, make your site mobile-friendly, preferably responsive, and avoid taking a very brisk walk down a perilous road. By following these tips above and making sure you deliver a first-class experience for mobile visitors, you will be in a much stronger position when Google decides to ‘flip the switch’ to the mobile-first index, ensuring you maintain and build on those search engine rankings you have been working so hard to achieve.
That’s the only way you’ll get ahead in Google’s new mobile-indexing algorithm.
If you have any concerns regarding Google’s Mobile-First Index, do not hesitate to give us a call at 02 9626 8159 or send us a message.
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