Google is changing how sites are indexed. Instead of ranking content based off both mobile and desktop versions of a website, only the mobile site will be taken into account. Initially, Google had planned to enable ‘mobile-first indexing’ for sites on their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) from September 2020, however later postponed this to the end of March 2021.
Sites that are currently desktop only (do not have a mobile version) will be dropped from Google's index. As a result, these websites have no chance of featuring in a search engine results page, which will lead to a significant decrease in organic traffic.
To add to the changes, if the site is set up as an m-dot, meaning your current mobile version is hosted on a separate subdomain, there may be complications in sending desktop browsers to the mobile version of the site.
We've researched how the change in Google's indexing may affect your site and put together a list of criteria to address:
Content on your desktop site should be perfectly mirrored by your mobile version, as only the content that appears in the mobile version will be indexed and ranked in SERPs. If the content on both versions majorly differs, you are likely to see a drop in traffic due to the reduced clarity of information available for Google to index.
In addition to ensuring content on desktop and mobile versions of your site align, review headings and SEO titles. This gives Google the ability to understand a page even further, increasing the chances of it ranking higher in Search.
If your desktop site has a different URL to the mobile version, there may be a temporary reduction in traffic from Google Images following the transition to mobile-first indexing. This is because Google will not recognise the mobile URL and therefore take time to understand the context of the image and index them appropriately. Minimise this disruption by ensuring desktop and mobile image URLs mirror one another.
When it comes to positioning videos and images on your mobile site, location is important. If it is difficult for a user to find the content they are searching for, Google may determine the site to be less user-friendly, pushing down its presence in the list of SERPs. To avoid this, place critical information, content, videos and images on your key landing pages to ensure easy navigation for the user.
Images with a low resolution reduce the overall quality of any site. It is also important to note how an image appears on mobile, where the display can limit the impact of what is being shown. Both will affect the likelihood of Google including them in Google Images, and potentially indexing them less favourably. Could this be an opportunity to refresh the look of your site with new higher-quality imagery?
Deferring loading of non-visible content, also known as lazy loading, is a great way to reduce loading time on mobile sites for images and videos, consequently improving user experience. However, it must be implemented correctly to ensure content is still visible for Google to crawl and index. In order for this to happen, your lazy-loading implementation must show all relevant content whenever it is visible in the viewport.
It is also recommended that you avoid lazy-loading primary content based on user interactions, such as swiping or clicking, as Googlebot won't trigger these user interactions.
As of the end of March 2021 if your website is not responsive or does not have a mobile version of the site you are likely to see a drop in visibility if it is searched for on the internet. Your position in Search is likely to start dropping or potentially disappear altogether if you are desktop only.
This new algorithm by Google of how it regulates its search engine will have a strong impact on any company or brand relying on SEO for visibility and consequently, sales leads, e-comm and referrals may be affected.
At iCandy Design, we have over 19 years of experience in driving organic traffic through SERPS, offering a range of skilled services including content marketing, web design and pay-per-click advertising. As an extension of your marketing team, we can ensure that the performance impact of SEO updates by Google to your business are minimised, allowing you to stay ahead of the competition. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you manage this transition today.