Google eyes up change to go Mobile-First

This November Google’s Webmaster Central Blog made a big announcement. Google has a major shakeup in how its search ranking algorithm will assess website content and usability penned in for the near future.

The secret-sauce (or should we say source) of Google’s core algorithm is traditionally a closely guarded secret and is only ever discussed on a need-to-know basis and this so happens to be one of those times. We’ve seen announcements like this in the past with large updates to combat spam links and content, as well as weighting for mobile-friendly websites and of course with the Hummingbird update, to help Google better understand conversational queries.

Why is this update needed?

Google’s aim is to return relevant, useful search results to users of their search engine. Not just relevant in terms of content either, but also in terms of usability.

In 2015 Google announced that it began receiving more users from mobile devices than from desktops, however with a mobile website normally offering different on-site content to the user than a desktop version of the website an issue has been realised. The issue is largely that Google are assessing the needs of a mobile user with an algorithm that is geared up towards evaluating the desktop offering of a website.

What will change?

Although only in testing currently and certainly a few months off coming into force, Google plans to update their core algorithm to assess a website and rank it primarily based on what content is available when accessed from a mobile device.

What does this mean in practice?

If you have considerably less content available on a mobile version of a page compared to the desktop version, then Google may begin to see the page as less relevant to its target search terms.  That said, from testing Google have predicted that any impact is likely to be negligible.

Google has been steadily increasing the amount of special listings, or snippets like Rich Cards and Knowledge Graph Cards, in its search results. These snippets use structured data in the website’s code to understand certain types of content and to deliver it to the user directly in Google Search. Just a few examples include recipes, videos or a SiteLinks Search Box.

As Google will be primarily assessing the website’s mobile offering, if there is a discrepancy between structured data markup in the code on mobile and desktop versions of a website, then how the website appears in scenarios where structured data is used by Google might change.

What if you don’t have a mobile site?

If you don’t have a mobile version of your website then do not panic, Google have stated:

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.

Some considerations outlined by Google in their Mobile-First announcement

Google recommends that in order to keep content comparable between mobile and desktop versions, then a website should be either responsive or have a dynamically served mobile site, both of which are available from Intelligent Retail. Keeping content and structured data comparable should reduce the likelihood of any disruption to the status quo in search results.

The mobile version of a website might sometimes be found in an area that’s off-limits to website crawlers, so it’s worth checking your robots.txt file to see and make sure that is able to be crawled (Intelligent Retail’s mobile offerings are both crawlable and indexable).

If you have a mobile site that appears at a different address to the main website, then this should be registered separately with Google using Google Search Console. In our case, as Intelligent Retail ‘s responsive websites and dynamically served versions display on the same URLs, a separate Search Console profile is not necessary.

 Find out more about Intelligent Retail’s own mobile-friendly eCommerce websites.

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