What You Need to Know About Mobile-First Indexing
Published: January 2, 2020
What is Mobile-First Indexing?
Mobile-first Indexing (MFI) is an initiative set up by Google which makes your mobile website content the baseline for how they determine your rankings. Previously, it was all about the desktop version. To further explain this change, Danny Sullivan of Google compared the web to a library. Previously, all books were printed (desktop). But as more and more people began to spend more time reading through eBooks (mobile), print versions were replaced. It is still the same library which has a mix of both types. But eventually, there will be more eBooks than printed ones.
Traditionally, Google followed a desktop-first indexing. This means that search engines crawled first to the desktop versions of your website and used the information they gathered as basis for your rankings. With mobile-first indexing, all rankings – both desktop and mobile – will be based from the data gathered through a mobile crawl.
You can think of the phrase “mobile-first” to mean that the mobile version of your website is now its primary version. So, if the desktop and mobile versions of your website are currently optimized and deliver the same experience, this shift to mobile-first indexing should technically have no significant impact to your search results performance.
A lot of people should also bear in mind that it’s called “mobile-first” and not “mobile-only” for a reason. If your site does not have a mobile version or a mobile-friendly version, Google will still include your desktop site it the index. However, this lack of a good mobile experience can negatively impact your site’s rankings. A mobile-friendly site, on the other hand, will receive a boost in rankings even for its desktop version.
How to Build a Mobile-First Indexing Strategy for Your Website
Having all these information in mind, let’s take a look at some tips that will help you build a mobile-first indexing strategy for your website:
1. Optimize your page speed on mobile
Page speed is important for both desktop and mobile versions of your website. However, people using mobile to search for something are usually on the go and are in a hurry to find answers to their questions. They are most likely looking for the best place to eat in an unfamiliar area or searching for directions to get to their destination. These people don’t have the luxury of time to wait for a slow site to load.
Google has a PageSpeed Insights tool that analyzes the content of your website and provides suggestions to make the page faster. All you have to do is input your URL, click “Analyze”, and wait for the result.
2. Add XML and media sitemaps
XML and HTML sitemaps tell Google when you publish new content, allowing those new pages to be indexed faster. An XML makes it easy for search engine crawlers to understand the content of your website, thus, effectively serving it to relevant audience. An HTML sitemap, on the other hand, aims to make it easier for website visitors to navigate your site. Remember that search engines reward websites that are user-friendly.
Media sitemaps are similar to XML and HTML sitemaps except that they include content aside from text, like videos and images.
If you are a WordPress user, the easiest way to add XML and media sitemaps to your site is through installing the Yoast plug-in. It automatically creates sitemaps for you – yes, including media sitemaps – so you don’t have to worry about codes and other granular details anymore.
3. Add optimized metadata
Metadata is a way you can communicate to both search engines and users. There are different kinds of metadata, so it is important to know that you are optimizing the right ones.
Start by making sure that the titles and meta descriptions on your desktop site match what’s in your mobile version. Pay attention to your images as well. Make sure all images uploaded to your website have alt attributes. Again, if you are using WordPress, you don’t have to worry about coding. Simply click the image you want to change and click the pencil icon to edit it. You will see a field for Alt text, fill this with keyword-rich content.
4. Have high-quality content
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when creating a mobile version of your site is to disable some content found on your desktop site.
More and more people are now browsing the internet using mobile phones, but that doesn’t mean they want lesser options. These users also want text, images, and videos.
Instead, focus on creating high-quality content relevant to your audience. Smartphones are now big enough to display long-form articles with images. Just make sure that your font size is not too small and your font style is not difficult to read.
5. Use expandable content
“Hidden content” was a big no-no for SEO back then. This is still true for black hatters who try to game the system by stuffing their articles with keywords using a font color similar to the background. This kind of trick does not work anymore.
What can actually help improve the mobile-friendliness of your site are expandable contents. You may have probably seen this already in some websites. This style is sometimes called accordion content by designers and marketers.
With expandable content, you can make headlines clickable and all the other sub-information will only be displayed once the headline is clicked. This prevents your content from being put at the very bottom of the page. According to usability experts, users leave the page when they cannot find the information they need after three scrolls. An expandable content divides your information into categories, making it easier for your site visitors to locate what they need.