“Google to move all websites to mobile-first indexing by September 2020!”
Google have decided that all websites will be moved to mobile- first indexing by September 2020, something the tech firm have been in the process of since 2016. However, it is only this year that they have ironed out all of the kinks so the transition will be as smooth as possible.
While being forward focused and putting mobile first, Google have stated that your website may still be crawled with the traditional desktop Googlebot after the update has taken place, but most of the crawling will be done by their mobile smartphone user-agent, meaning that your website may be crawled more than usual.
So what is Mobile-first indexing?
Mobile-first indexing just means that when Google are indexing your website for the search engine results page they will be analysing the mobile version of your website first, rather than the desktop version. That doesn’t necessarily mean that if your website doesn’t have a mobile version that it won’t get indexed on Google, but it will put you at a huge disadvantage when Google rank your website. This is due to the fact that the majority of Google searches are now performed on a mobile device rather than a desktop and as some desktop websites have different amounts of content and different layouts than the mobile version, it makes sense that Google will index the mobile version first. This has been in the works for many years but it is only this year that Google will update their algorithm to mobile-first indexing by default.
Currently, Google actually already rank around 70% of websites through mobile-first indexing, however the remaining 30% will need to be moved over to the new process which is why this process has taken so long, as mobile first indexing was first mentioned by Google back in 2016. The process of moving over from desktop-first indexing to mobile-first indexing has taken four years and only now is it nearly ready to be a default factor in their ranking algorithm.
So what does this mean for your website?
Well this probably means that your website could already be included within the 70% of websites that are already being ranked by Google under the mobile-first indexing process, meaning that if you are happy with your current ranking position then this shouldn’t change very much when the full indexing update takes effect in September. However, if your website has a separate desktop and mobile version then this is where you may see a drop in rankings, as this will depend on the amount of content, the images, the links, the structured data etc. That is featured on the mobile version of your website. As this will be the primary website version that Google will be ranking, you may see a drop in your position on the search engine results page. Therefore, some changes to the mobile version of your website may be necessary to ensure you keep your position.
So, is there any real reason to panic? Will mobile-first indexing negatively affect your SEO?
The answer to that is probably not, as long as you have a mobile version of your website available to Google, their new mobile-first indexing update shouldn’t really be an issue for your SEO. If you are with us here at WebBoss then your website will be absolutely fine as every one of our websites has a responsive design and so are fully accessible by any device, not just mobile.
So should I have a responsive website design?
Even before this update it was recommended that you have a responsive website, in light of this new update by Google, it would seem that having a responsive website is vital when it comes to SEO. This is due to the fact that your website will have one version for all devices as opposed to having two separate websites, one specifically for mobile and one for desktop. A responsive website design allows the desktop version of your website to be fluid and will minimise in size to fit all different device screen sizes. This ensures that your website is fully visible and easy to navigate for your users not just on a phone but iPads and tablets too.
However, during the design process it is very important to consider the structure and the amount of content that will be visible on each page, as well as page speeds and image sizes. These may look nice on a desktop but when it comes to viewing the website via a smaller device, you may find that the page length is extremely long and there is a lot of written content that people may find difficult to read on a mobile or similar device. Loading speeds are also a very important consideration as people tend to have shorter attention spans when they are using a mobile device, so it is very important that the mobile view of your website has been considered during the initial design stages, to ensure that your users will have the best experience of your website across all devices.
In terms of keeping costs low, a responsive website can definitely do just that, as there is only one code base that will fit to all devices. This keeps the costs low as your website builder will only need to design one set of code for your website, this considerably reduces time as you will not need a separate set of code for a solely mobile designed website. Also, if you choose a company that is experienced with responsive design (like us) it will mean that the design will be considered for different screen sizes. A responsive design also means a consistent website experience across all devices. Have you ever visited a website on your laptop or desktop and then when you view the website via your phone you cannot find your way around because the layout is completely different? This can be quite confusing and frustrating for the user’s experience of a website.
So in conclusion to all of this, we would recommend that having some kind of mobile version of your website is an absolute MUST! As the Google deadline looms, you will want to ensure that your website does not receive a knock in search engine rankings by ensuring that you have a mobile version ready for your users. The best direction we could push you in, especially if you are on a lower budget, is to get yourself a responsive website design as it is by far the cheapest and simplest way to ensure that Google are going to continue to rank your website! Not sure where to start? Contact us for a chat to discuss your options.