It’s taken over a year and a half, but Google’s mobile-first indexing is finally here.
The Search Console messages have begun to appear, and sites are steadily being switched over to the mobile-first indexing approach.
A lot has been written about mobile-first indexing, but most of the attention has focused on the basic aspects of mobile search engine optimization. In this article, I want to dig into some of the more technical aspects of mobile search engine optimization (SEO) and show what you can do to ensure your website is fully ready and will survive the mobile-first indexing era.
What does Google mean by “mobile-first indexing?”Contrary to what some SEOs believe, Google is not creating a separate index for mobile search. Whether a site is part of the mobile-first indexing approach or not, Google still serves its search results from the same index of the web.
At its core, only one thing really changes: Instead of crawling websites with a desktop user-agent, Google will crawl websites with a mobile user-agent.
Historically, Google has crawled websites from a desktop perspective, with a user-agent string that indicates a desktop device:
Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)
With mobile-first indexing, this changes to a user-agent indicating a mobile device:
Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 6.0.1; Nexus 5X Build/MMB29P) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/41.0.2272.96 Mobile Safari/537.36 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)
This user-agent string shows that it’s purporting to be an Android device, so it expects to see your website’s content optimized for mobile viewing on that type of device.
Delivering mobile-optimized experiences
With this mobile user-agent, what Googlebot sees depends on how your website is configured to handle mobile users. Delivering mobile-optimized experiences tends to happen in one of three ways:
- Responsive design. With this approach, nothing really changes. Your website’s uniform resource locators (URLs) remain the same, and the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) code served is identical as well. The site’s design will adapt to the size of the screen it’s being shown on, delivering a mobile experience catered to the device’s specific screen resolution. Google recommends responsive design…
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