Google has released advice about how users can be preparing for the mobile-first index. They have already confirmed that the mobile-first index has been rolled out for “a handful of sites” for testing and monitoring purposes. You will be able to spot when your own website has received the update by an increased crawl rate by the Smartphone Googlebot within your log files and the snippets in the results and Google cached pages will be that of the mobile version of your site.
The mobile-first index continues the trend of Google favouring sites with optimised mobile versions; it will rank search listings based specifically on the mobile version of content, even for listings that are shown to desktop users. This is due to the majority of users now making searches on their mobile devices as opposed to desktops.
If you don’t have a mobile version, don’t worry, as Google has stated that they will still crawl the desktop version of your website instead. You should bear in mind, however, the continuing trend of users turning to mobile searches over desktop and ensure that your website allows for a good user experience across all devices.
Google said, “If you only have a desktop site, we’ll continue to index your desktop site just fine, even if we’re using a mobile user agent to view your site.”
Google’s Gary Illyes has released tips outline how users can be ready for the mobile-first index:
- Make sure the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos — in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.
- Structured data is important for indexing and search features that users love: It should be both on the mobile and desktop version of the site. Ensure URLs within the structured data are updated to the mobile version on the mobile pages.
- Metadata should be present on both versions of the site. It provides hints about the content on a page for indexing and serving. For example, make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of all pages on the site.
- No changes are necessary for interlinking with separate mobile URLs (m.-dot sites). For sites using separate mobile URLs, keep the existing link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between these versions.
- Check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs. When using link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization, link between mobile and desktop URLs separately. Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there.
- Ensure the servers hosting the site have enough capacity to handle potentially increased crawl rate. This doesn’t affect sites that use responsive web design and dynamic serving, only sites where the mobile version is on a separate host, such as m.example.com.