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Google Is Switching To A Mobile First Index

View profile for Jamie Stevens
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Last week in Las Vegas was one of the largest digital marketing conferences held anywhere (no, I did not go). It’s called http://www.pubcon.com/

Anyway, there was an IMPORTANT major announcement from Google, and when I say major, I mean REALLY IMPORTANT.

Here’s the headline:-

Google is switching to a mobile first index

Google currently maintains two indexes. First it crawls your site pretending to be a desktop-user and then it crawls your site pretending to be a mobile-user. When you search from a desktop it currently uses the desktop-index, and when you search from a mobile it currently uses the mobile index – BUT THIS IS ALL ABOUT TO CHANGE. Google will be using the mobile-index for all searches.

The announcement was made by Gary Illyes from Google, who incidentally I heard speaking on this very topic as far back as April 2015 at the BrightonSEO conference.  This news has been widely reported elsewhere on the web e.g. http://www.thesempost.com/google-switching-mobile-first-index-desktop/

Why the Change?

Google has undoubtedly decided to make this change to a mobile first index because we are “living in a mobile world” and it makes sense to make this change. 

What does it mean for my law firm’s website?

Well, that depends on how your website has been designed & built.

I don’t have a mobile site or a “responsive” site

I’m sure you already know that this is not a good place to be. Mobile represents a massive proportion of website traffic and you will be losing traffic and enquiries if you do not cater for this audience.

I have a desktop-website and a separate (standalone) mobile-site?

A separate standalone website for mobile users is old-school. There was a time when this was a very practical solution but that was years ago – all websites are now built to be “responsive” so that one site can serve content to all different devices.

Bottom line? If your law firm has a separate (standalone) mobile website you need to upgrade and make your site “responsive”.

I already have a “responsive” website?

If your law firm already have a responsive site then the chances are that you wont have to do anything. However, it’s worth checking that your responsive site is delivering the same content to both desktop and mobile users. It’s possible for a responsive site to decide to hide some content from mobile users – when this is done it’s usually in the hope of making the page faster to load on mobile devices. The technique is not very common but it certainly is an important thing to check.

Bottom line? If your website has content on the desktop page that is being hidden from mobile devices you could lose traffic.

Structured data

Often website designers remove structured data from the mobile version of the page to make the page lighter and thus faster to deliver to the browser.  But in order to keep the structured data for your pages in the search results for mobile, we will need to ensure the structured data appears on your mobile pages.

When will Google change to mobile first index?

Illyes did not give dates for this change.  Apparently he did say that Google will be announcing it with a blog post, which will include details about when Google makes the change to mobile first indexing.

It is also worth nothing that Google has given plenty of notice about the changes they have made with mobile indexing, such as when they made the plan to add a mobile friendly ranking boost.  If you do not have someone in your team already subscribed to the Google Webmaster Central Blog (https://webmasters.googleblog.com) then I suggest you do.  It’s where you will catch stories like the Penguin algorithm becoming a part of the core Google algorithm https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2016/09/penguin-is-now-part-of-our-core.html

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