In April of this year, Google rolled out the Mobile First Index in response to the increasing use of mobile devices. This means that the importance of mobile-optimized websites has once again increased. Louisa Wanjek from artaxo GmbH summarizes the Mobile First Index and gives nine tips for mobile website optimization.
What is the Mobile First Index?
The Mobile First Index is all about mobile search. Mobile first means that Google primarily evaluates and indexes websites based on their mobile version, instead of based on the desktop version, as was previously the case. Furthermore, there is only one index. Its basis has only changed. This means that the content of the mobile pages is now decisive for the ranking. The Mobile First Index was first announced in November 2016 . It was officially introduced in April 2018. Using the prioritized rating of mobile content, Google wants to help mobile users to find the right answers to their search queries . Thus, this change is a response to the increasing use of mobile search: Estimated to happen57 percent of search traffic comes from mobile devices.
What does the Mobile First Index mean for SEO?
In the course of increasing digitization, every website should have a mobile-optimized version. The important thing is that you don’t just optimize your website for mobile devices because Google recommends it. Think of your users first and answer the following questions:
What content are users interested in? How do they find the content quickly? How can the usability of the website be made as pleasant as possible?
Act according to the motto “User First”. Pay attention to changing circumstances that mobile search brings with it. These include e.g. B. a different search and usage behavior on mobile devices than on desktop and a different representation in the SERPs. You can address these changes with the mobile optimization of your websites. You have three options for this :
- Responsive design : Your website has a version that automatically adapts to the device screen size via CSS. According to Google, this is the recommended approach .
- Dynamic delivery : Depending on the end device, different content of your website is displayed to the users. The server transmits different HTML versions under the same URL depending on the device.
- Different URLs : Each desktop URL has a URL that displays the content optimized for mobile devices (“m.dot site”). So there are two versions of your website, one for desktop and one for mobile.
Why does Google recommend responsive web design?
There are many reasons why responsive design is preferred . Compared to the other options, there is only one website version, which is why the development and maintenance effort and the susceptibility to errors are lower. In addition, less crawl budget is required because the website only needs to be crawled once to find all versions of the content. Indirectly, more content can be indexed and kept up to date.
From the user’s point of view, there are also some advantages for responsive design. The website always adapts automatically to the respective end device and the loading times are shorter due to the unnecessary redirects.
When should website owners act?
According to Google, website owners do not have to change anything on their website if: The website has a responsive web design or the website has implemented dynamic content delivery without errors (equivalent content and markup for mobile and desktop). If this is not the case, optimization measures are required. With the following nine SEO tips you can make your website fit for the Mobile First Index.
9 SEO Tips for Mobile First Index
1. Check website status
Use programs like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Tool to find out if your website is mobile-friendly.
2. Verify both website versions
If you have a mobile site but haven’t yet submitted it to Google Search Console , you should do so urgently. By doing so, you convey the existence of this website version to the search engine.
3. Optimize mobile loading times
Since the Google Page Speed Update in July 2018, the loading time on mobile devices has been a ranking factor. The faster your website loads, the better. Google recommends a maximum of 3 seconds . You can reduce your loading time with various measures, e.g. B. image optimization, reduction of 301 redirects or reduction of CSS and HTML resources. Google ‘s PageSpeed Insights tool analyzes your website and provides helpful tips for improving speed.
4. Use structured data
Structured data helps search engines understand the content of your website more easily. For both versions of the website, you should use structured data that is also consistent. Compare both versions of your website using the Structured Data Testing Tool .
5. Optimize metadata
All your URLs should have full metadata that is equivalent for both website versions. The meta data of both versions should therefore contain the same information and keywords. Title and description for the mobile version can be a bit shorter. A title of around 65 characters and a description of 100-145 characters are currently recommended . For checking z. B. the Serp Simulator .
6. Enable crawling
Make your mobile site accessible to the Google bot. To do this, you should define in the robots.txt file in the root of your website which sections of your website can be accessed by the desktop crawler and which by the mobile crawler. The robots.txt testing tool is helpful for checking.
7. Check hreflang links
If you have a multilingual website, you should check your hreflang links and link separately between mobile and desktop URLs . This means that the links on your mobile website must point to the mobile version of the other language variants and the links on the desktop version must point to the respective desktop URLs.
8. Adjust content
If you have a separate mobile website version, you should make sure that all the important content from the desktop version is there. In addition to text, this also includes images and videos. Ensure that the formats can be crawled and indexed, e.g. B. with alt attributes for images. The “thumb-friendliness” of the mobile website is also particularly important: buttons should e.g. B. easily clickable and the writing legible. Test this extensively.
9. Create sufficient server capacity
Ensure that your servers can handle an increasing crawl frequency .
If you only have a desktop version of your website so far, Google will continue to take this into account in the ranking, but with the mobile crawler. So it may be that your website ranks worse than mobile-optimized websites. If you’re making a mobile version, don’t be hasty. According to Google, a working desktop website can be better than a broken, incomplete mobile version. Therefore, only launch your mobile website when it is really ready.