There has been a lot of speculation around Google’s new mobile-first index. There are over 50% of Google searches now made on mobile devices and up until now, Google has been using the desktop version of your website as the main source to rank your site in search results.
At first, Google could not watch clicks on mobile devices. However, that changed about a year ago and Google can now watch clicks on mobile devices, thanks to its safe browse feature for mobiles. Google currently renders the web pages on your desktop site and giving your website quality score based on various factors. However, it appears like now Google is switching its Googlebot user agent from a desktop user agent to a mobile user agent.
That means, your web server is going to provide the mobile version of your website if this change takes place and this may well be used for your overall site ranking.
This also means, say, the if the mobile version of your site has different content than the desktop version then Google is going to rank your website differently based on the mobile version of your site. Also, the update we saw on the 15th of December could very well be the first step towards mobile first index. Here are a few things you may well be considering for your 2018 SEO strategy:
No more hidden content
It used to be the case that if you have any hidden content on your website then Google would not use that content to rank your site and were no longer giving you a penalty for that content. Only the visible content was used for ranking. However, that’s not the case anymore and Google is going to read the whole of the web page and will rank that page based on the quality of the whole content.
Mobile version of your website as the Main Source of Ranking
Google may start using your mobile site as “main source” for your entire website ranking. Your website also needs to be faster if Google will be using a mobile version of your site as the main source to rank your desktop website or your overall website. This could potentially make a huge difference in terms of your website ranking because mobile sites always have a penalty if your web page loading speed is slow on mobile but that would not adversely affect your desktop site ranking as much.
However, if Google starts to rank websites based on mobile sites then this could lead to a serious problem for many websites. Generally speaking, the bounce rate on mobile devices is generally very high as compared to desktop sites. It doesn’t matter even if the user is on the fastest LTE or 3G networks, mobile sites could take a longer time to load and hence, typically bounce rate is worse on mobiles. If Google starts to take into consideration these bounce rates for ranking then this could drastically reduce ranking for many websites.
However, these are just speculations and not confirmed whether Google is going to penalise websites based on their mobile site as the main source.
You will also need the schema for your mobile site. Your HTML should be valid including schema & structured data. Also, make sure you use the right schema, for example, if you have a product site then you should use product schema etc. and regularly check your search console for any errors.
Also remember, the little content tricks that you may have been using on the desktop site may not actually work on the mobile site.
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Google may penalise mobile sites that distract the “User Experience”
Anything that popups on your mobile site that distracts and annoys user could adversely affect your site ranking. If Google will start using your mobile site as the main source for ranking, then does this mean that this will also impact your desktop rankings? Well, this may be the case if mobile quality score becomes the main source for your website. In the past, if you get panda penalty due to quality issues on your desktop site then your mobile site used to go down in ranking as well. Will this be the case in terms of the mobile-first index? Realistically, it’s too early to say. However, you need to consider that Google has now more than 100 trillion pages to choose from, so they have plenty of choices to choose from. This is a good practice to check your mobile site and see if there are any errors, display issues or layout issues, content issues & page loading speed etc. etc.
We will keep you posted here if there are any more updates on this. You can subscribe to our blog to get notified as soon as we post new updates regarding this on our blog.