2018 has been the year of mobile-first page indexing, with many websites being modified to cater to these new changes, although algorithms have been in place since 2015 to rank mobile-friendly sites in SERPs. This new index switch could affect SEOs drastically, so here’s a summary of what you need to know and do to stay ahead of the game.
Mobile SEO background
First and foremost, we need to debunk the myth that this index for mobile search is a distinct entity from the index for regular web search. In both cases, search results still come from the same old index. The main changes are in fact crawling related. While a tweet from Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) says that the crawl count per day won’t be too affected, what’s new is that more mobile pages will be crawled instead of desktop pages.
In technical terms, Google is now crawling websites with a mobile-user agent instead of a desktop-user agent, as it formerly did. To add on, there’s a chance that Google could increase the crawling rate for your website when it’s re-indexing it.
Mobile Optimization Scenario Checklist
During the crawling process, Google is actually analyzing your website to see how it appears and caters to mobile users. Making some changes to your website’s structure will help you in this area: below are 3 types of website design that serve users in different ways. What they have in common is the fact that they all involve changes (or lack of) to two main components: the website’s URL and HTML.
Scenario #1: Change the URL and HTML
In this method, a distinct URL is created for mobile users and this serves up a unique HTML page for the mobile user that’s different from the one a desktop user receives. This is aimed at creating pages that are specially structured for easier reading. Companies like Facebook use this method and you can easily identify these from their URLs, with the domains going something like “m.facebook.com/”.
Scenario #2: Keep the URL, change HTML
A technique called dynamic serving allows websites to send specialized HTML codes catered for web or mobile users, based on who the user-agent is. The appearance of a website could hence appear very different when you surf on a desktop or a on a portable device. Using different HTML codes, while tedious, could help speed up the mobile experience because large files like rich media (videos for example) or long texts can be removed to reduce loading time. Most mobile users tend to scroll and skim, so accessing sites with dynamic serving will earn some plus points from them.
Scenario #3: Keep URL and HTML
Using the same URL and HTML code for both web and mobile users is a method used in responsive design (RD). In this method, it’s the cascading style sheet (CSS) code that’s being modified, and this is what makes the website’s layout flexible enough to modify itself to fit the user’s screen size.
Source: Responsive Design (https://responsivedesign.is/examples/susan-j-robertson)
This is Google’s ideal design method because they won’t need to index any additional codes since the HTML is kept constant, and there’s no need for them to crawl more URLs. For SEOs, RD is probably your best bet. RD has the advantages of being more cost-efficient and they allow sites to be viewed offline through the usage of HTML5. However, it’s worth nothing that RD sites are not the fastest – they tend to take longer to fully load, and certain forms of data need to be optimized for mobile users such as data charts.
Getting Your Pages Ready for Mobile-First Indexing
Best Practice On-Page SEO Methods
For the first two types of website design, ensure that these are written with SEO in mind because creating new URLs or HTML could affect the on-page SEO. Content is crucial – ensure that the title tags, meta descriptions, anchor texts and headings are all optimized. Your mobile site should aim to be as SEO-friendly as your desktop site. If you need help, our SEO services in Singapore could be perfect for your business.
Pagination Meta Tags
Pagination refers to the scrolling process: whether a website scrolls infinitely or ends with a page index or perhaps has a fixed landing page with a sitemap for users to venture from based on their needs. Whichever the case, use the right pagination meta tags so that when Google crawls your page, they will read it the way it’s meant to be read, register it as a legitimate page and keep it in the SERP.
If you’re currently making use of structured data on your desktop site, do the same for the mobile sites. Search engines display rich snippets as your site’s meta descriptions when structured data is used and losing these rich snippets could be detrimental to the ability of your meta description to attract users.
Traditional web SEO utilizes a ton of links, both internal and external, to increase a page’s legitimacy. The very nature of mobile surfing makes it difficult for the desktop rules to apply here completely. For starters, mobile surfers are less likely to want to be diverted to an external site because it’s hard to manage tabs on mobile, understandably. Removing these links to help users could mean jeopardizing the ranking of some of internal links. This highlights the need for a complete link structure makeover.
To test the effectiveness of the current link structure, use web crawling tools like DeepCrawl that will help tabulate scores for both the mobile and desktop versions of your web pages, and then deliver it in a neat and concise report that’s easy to analyse.
Source: Search Engine Land (https://searchengineland.com/mobile-serp-survival-technical-seo-checklist-299458)
Multiple Language Version Strategy
Both your desktop and mobile sites should consistently use the same hreflang tags if you intend for your site to come in different versions to cater to a diverse international audience. This requires a simple conversion of your target links into mobile-freindly ones, so if you’re creating new URLs for cell phone viewing, change the links to these.
On an ending note, these tips are not precautionary measures – they are things that really ought to be done, sooner rather than later, because mobile-first indexing isn’t a temporary trend. With more mobile users than desktop users these days (as more than one research finding has pointed out), optimizing your web pages isn’t just a courtesy to mobile users. It’s more than likely to hugely affect your page’s SEO and ultimately, viewership and success.