In November, 2016, Google announced they were starting to experiment the so called “Mobile first indexing”. 2018 will be the year in which this will effectively roll out, little by little, for all websites.
What is Mobile First Index?
Up to now, Google has crawled websites using their Desktop Googlebot for most of the time. This means that their indexing mostly looked at desktop versions of web pages.
This will experience a huge shift in 2018 when the mobile first indexing will effectively roll out and Google will switch to their Mobile Googlebot more. When this happens, they will index websites looking at the mobile version of their pages first.
Is my website ready for Google Mobile-First Index?
If you have a website with a Responsive Web Design already in place, you may have not much to worry about, since content between Desktop and Mobile versions of your pages is very much likely to be equivalent.
Need a Responsive Web Design for your website?
Still, Google gives us the following suggestions to look at, if we want our website to be ready when the mobile first indexing rolls out in 2018. This will also prevent our website from not showing up as they should in the Mobile Search Engine Results Page.
1) Both Mobile and Desktop content has to have the same quality
If you design your website content thinking of Mobile audience first, then this is going to be very easy to achieve. Anyway, Google wants to make sure “the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content”, which includes text, images (with alt-text), and videos.
2) If Structured Data is in place, it has to be both on Desktop and Mobile versions
Structured Data (such as Schema.org markup) is growing more and more important for SEO as it helps Search Engines to better index your content (often generating snippets such as Rich Results).
If you have them in place on your website, it should be both on the mobile and desktop version of the site.
3) Metadata has to be equivalent on both Desktop and Mobile versions
As for everything else, metadata such as page titles, meta descriptions and ALT text on videos and images has to be equivalent across different versions of your website.
4) For internationalisation, check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs
When using link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization, link between mobile and desktop URLs separately. Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there.
5) Make sure your hosting server can handle potentially increased crawl rate
This does not affect websites that use responsive web design, as they don’t have different website versions hosted on separate hosts (such as m.example.com).