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Mobile-First Indexing Recap

Google is getting ready for the mobile future and it has major ramifications for search marketers. 

The search engine's crawling, indexing and ranking systems currently use the desktop version of a page's content. That's the way it has been for years but it is moving toward mobile-first indexing which could jeopardize the success SEOs have experienced if they aren't prepared. 

With mobile-first indexing, Google will use the mobile version of content for indexing and ranking. Google indicated that webmasters should begin seeing increased crawling by Smartphone Googlebot, and the snippets in the results, as well as content appearing on the Google cache pages. 

Websites that use responsive Web design and implement dynamic serving correctly (a setup where the server responds with different HTML and CSS on the same URL depending on the user agent requesting the page) should be good to go, but there are a few "checks" webmasters should engage in to ensure they are in good standing on search results pages. 

Some guidance within Google's recent announcement on the subject includes making sure mobile versions have the same content (e.g., videos, images, etc.) as desktop versions, using structured data and meta data (like those expanded meta descriptions) on both versions of the site, and ensuring servers have the necessary capacity to handle the increased crawl rate. 

This shift to "mobile-first" is going to be most challenging for those websites that don't currently use dynamic serving (or responsive). Sites using separate mobile URLs, for example, will need to keep their existing link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between these versions - which many SEOs we've spoken with suggest could quickly become problematic (particularly for websites with large stores of content/data). 

While Google has begun this process, it indicated that it will be taking the shift to mobile-first indexing slowly. Hopefully, there's enough time for webmasters and optimization professionals to make any changes necessary to ensure their high rankings remain.

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