SEO in 2017: The year of mobile first indexing?

2015 set a new precedent for SEO as mobile searches surpassed desktop for the first time ever.

And, the mobile trend shows no signs of stopping.

Indeed, in late 2016 Google announced the ‘mobile first index’, which reveals how much they value mobile search going forward.

But, what is the index? Well, Search Engine Round Table provided a concise summary of the index that may come into place this year.

“In short, Google will crawl and index the mobile version of your site as its primary source for content and ranking signals for your site. Before, Google did this on the desktop site…Google said they “primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”

The announcement has led to all sorts of speculation as to the effects of the change.

Whilst Google representatives insist the new index system won’t cause any drastic changes to rankings, it does raise some questions.

For example, if you have a mobile version of your site with less content, then that could affect your rankings.

Google workers also admitted on Twitter that the changes could ‘theoretically’ affect Panda score changes too.

Google provides the following technical recommendations about mobile first indexing from their blog:

If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything.

If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site.

Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version.Sites can verify the equivalence of their structured markup across desktop and mobile by typing the URLs of both versions into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing the output. When adding structured data to a mobile site, avoid adding large amounts of markup that isn’t relevant to the specific information content of each document.

Use the robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot.

Sites do not have to make changes to their canonical links; we’ll continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile.

If you are a site owner who has only verified their desktop site in Search Console, please add and verify your mobile version.

If you only have a desktop site, we’ll continue to index your desktop site just fine, even if we’re using a mobile user agent to view your site.If you are building a mobile version of your site, keep in mind that a functional desktop-oriented site can be better than a broken or incomplete mobile version of the site. It’s better for you to build up your mobile site and launch it when ready.