In mid-2015, Google search requests from mobile devices passed those from desktops. About a year later, Google said that it was testing mobile-first indexing. It was a bit of a no-brainer: Since mobile searches predominate, it makes sense to prioritize search approaches that work best for tablets and smartphones.
The project is ongoing and the switchover will be gradual. On Monday, Gary Illyes, Google's Chief Webmaster, posted at the company's site on the status of the project.
An important point is that sites that use responsive web design and "dynamic serving" don't have to worry. Illyes then offered six ideas on how to ensure that a site indeed is mobile ready. They are to ensure that the mobile version of the site has "the most important, high-quality content;" that structured data and metadata be included on both the mobile and desktop versions of the site; and that the hosting services have sufficient capacity to handle an increased crawl rate.
Two other suggestions are technical: That no changes be made for interlining with separate mobile URLs and to check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs.
Glenn Gabe at G-Squared Interactive provides an in-depth overview of the changes. For the most part, his comments are aimed at experts. He does, however, capture the mobile-first dynamic at the beginning:
The move to a mobile-first index can be especially concerning for sites using separate mobile URLs (like m-dot subdomains). And that’s one of the reasons Google has been pushing responsive design as the cleanest approach for handling mobile. When using responsive design, the same HTML is delivered to all users, including structured data, hreflang tags and so on. CSS is used to change the rendering of the page based on viewport size. Since the same HTML is delivered for both desktop and mobile users, the move to a mobile-first index shouldn’t impact sites using responsive design at all.
In a significant but less fundamental change, Google said earlier this month that it has updated its SEO Starter Guide to aid marketers and webmasters to make their sites friendlier to search engines. The new version, which is published in nine languages, adds sections on the need for search engine optimization, the addition of structured data markup and building sites that are mobile friendly, according to Media Post.
The transition to mobile-first indexing is very important. Its importance, however, is somewhat obscured by the fact that it is highly technical and occurs on a gradual basis. But corporate webmasters and the people to whom they report should be very cognizant of these changes. How well they are implemented will impact how an organization fares when a customer or prospect is looking for goods and services – or just trying to find its phone number. Any customer contact is important, however, and not paying attention to an important way in which Google manages this process should not be an option.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.