Google began testing the mobile-first index in November 2016, though talk of it first began in September 2015. They have chosen this path since the majority of their traffic comes from mobile devices. We’ve heard that the launch could be happening soon, and Google has hinted that your mobile site needs to be responsive ahead of the launch to make sure your desktop and mobile pages are equivalent to one another.
The Mobile-First Index doesn’t have a set launch date, and it looks as though the rollout will be gradual, and beginning sometime in early 2018. Because we could be wrong since Google likes to surprise us, it’s better to get ready now than to be caught scrambling when announcements are made. It’s not likely the rollout will happen all at once. It’s expected to be completed on a site-by-site basis, rolling the index out in batches.
Waiting means Google will index your m-dot domain and URLs, meaning the migration will take longer since they’re not just updating URLs, but the content and signals within your pages, too. Basically, it makes sense to get the m-dot migrated to responsive now, so you can maintain your rankings.
Make Sure You Have a Responsive Website
If you don’t already have a responsive website, you need to make sure you have one ready to go. You can do this with a number of WordPress themes automatically. If you’re not sure how to go about a responsive design, talk to your webmaster, or reach out to us for help with your web design.
Do you think you have a responsive website, but you’re not sure? You can use this tool to quickly see how your website looks on tablets, smartphones, desktops, and laptops. It will tell you if you are responsive. Your site should look the same across all devices, with adjustments automatically made for screen size.
If your mobile site doesn’t match your desktop site or if you need to get mobile web optimization, you may see a negative effect on your SEO. This is because if your mobile site has less content than your desktop version, you may not rank as high since Google will prioritize the mobile-friendly site.
Even though a responsive website will take more time than creating a mobile-friendly site with the m-dot approach, it maintains unity for the desktop/mobile experience, for all pages.
Because search engines want to make their users happy by providing relevant and popular content, content is often the primary focus on a website. However, you can’t forget to focus on the number of users who are looking at your site as well.
One way to answer your visitors keep coming back for more is to make sure your mobile website has been developed with user experience as one of your top priorities. Rely on CSS and other kinds of front end coding to style your mobile site to make it easier to read and navigate.
Once you have made the effort to update your website to a responsive version, it’s important to make sure that Google is able to see these changes. You can use the Fetch and Render tool available in the Google Search Console to see how Google sees your website. All you have to do is specify that the user agent is a smartphone, and you’ll be able to see how Google will deliver your website to a user coming to your website from a smartphone.
Make Sure Any Necessary 301 Redirects Are Setup Appropriately
If you don’t have a responsive website and you’ve been relying on an m-dot on your domain to handle the mobile side of things – once you get your responsive website ready, you’ll want to set up 301 redirects from the m-dot domain to the full version of the domain. This way, people who are used to going to the m-dot will automatically be taken to the correct page on your website, which will adjust for the mobile device.
Make sure you do the 301 redirects on an individual basis, pointing each mobile URL to the equivalent responsive URL.
Check for Any Mobile Specific URL Configurations
If your site has any mobile-URL specific configurations, such as conditional redirects or a vary HTTP header, you’ll want to remove those.
While you’re at it, set up rel=canonical on responsive URLs that point to themselves. This helps Google recognize that pages are the same so you aren’t dealing with any kind of duplicate content issues.
What if I Want to Switch from Dynamic Serving to Responsive Design?
If you are using dynamic serving and want to move to responsive design, you can do it. You do not need to add or change any redirects to complete the process, however.
Better to Make Changes Now Than to Wait
If the idea of making sure your website is ready for the mobile first index roll out is overwhelming, don’t be afraid to reach out to ask for help. We know what needs to be done to make sure your website is mobile friendly and ready for the change is in the Google search result pages.
Waiting to see what happens when the roll out starts taking place in 2018 can have negative effects on your business so we recommend you take action sooner rather than later.
Are you ready for the mobile-first index launch? Do you feel it will have a positive impact overall? Why or why not? Share your thoughts below.