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Mobile-Only Index: NON Responsive Websites Take a Hit

Google's announcement of a Mobile-Only Index being tested, with hopes of it being released in a few months, has many SEOs on alert. Google currently looks at the desktop version of a page to decide how to rank it and what structured data is in place for BOTH their desktop and mobile results. When someone is searching on mobile, Google will add the mobile friendly boost and display the mobile version of the page when applicable.

One of main reasons Google is changing their index to be based on a site's mobile version for BOTH the mobile and desktop results is because we now officially have more people searching on mobile devices than desktop computers worldwide — and that number is rising. Many times, these mobile searchers are finding content that may be comprehensive on a desktop but is condensed on mobile. So to fix this, Google is working on serving a Mobile-Only index to everyone.

Google has released some recommendations and info for you to review in order to enhance your chances of staying on top after this next major shift takes place. Keep in mind, this advice is for any website that does NOT already have a responsive design in place. Responsive sites will be ranked exactly as they currently are, nothing changes with them. So...

For Non-responsive sites - here's Google's advice on what you need to do:

  • Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version.

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

  • 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.

  • 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 should talk about your options.

Just to be clear, if you're currently serving less content on the mobile version of your site than the desktop version, that needs to change—sooner than later. When this change happens...

Google will only look at the mobile version of your content. If it has less content compared to your desktop version then you'll lose the rankings (and visitors) that your desktop content was bringing in.

The only time that Google will use your desktop content for the mobile only index is if the only mobile content you're serving is in the AMP format. For sites with only AMP mobile content, Google will default to the desktop site's content. 

As Google reports more testing we'll let you know. For now we strongly recommend that you focus on the points discussed above. As always, if you have questions, you can contact us.