If there’s only one thing you change on your career website, this should be it

Written by: Han Rusman Han Rusman

Amongst all the (mysterious) aspects that influence the findability of your career website, there is one technical feature that certainly matters. Solving this one issue alone will not get your website to the top of the search engines, but you can check off one of the prerequisites of an optimised website off your list. Get your developer to help you and read this article to back up your request.

The latest change in Google

In 2016 Google announced for the first time that they were testing out “mobile first” indexing. In fact, Google’s Gary Illyes called the mobile-first index the biggest change in search for 2018. Recently, Google finished their experiments and started migrating websites to their new approach. In this blog, we will give you a summary of the changes, and how they can impact your search ranking.

So what changed exactly?

In short; the mobile version of your website will be considered as the primary version of your site by Google for indexing the content of your site in their search results.

In the past, Google sent their indexing robots through the desktop versions of websites by default. After indexing the desktop version they would look for a mobile version, and they would boost this page for search results on mobile.

So let’s say you own website.com and have your mobile version at mobile.website.com. Google based their overall search ranks mostly on how relevant they perceived website.com for a particular search query. For users that used Google on mobile, they would serve the mobile version.

They have now reversed this policy.

They will look for the mobile version first, and if they cannot find the mobile version, they will try to find a desktop version.

In this case, they will crawl mobile.website.com first to base their scoring on all the different factors.

If you have done your homework already, this change should cause you nothing to worry about.

Google will still base the ranking on many factors.

Factors that still matter:

  • Google will still do a separate assessment to check how mobile friendly your website and content is.
  • Having a website that loads fast is always helpful for a good ranking but has no impact on this particular change.

Impact for mobile websites

The biggest impact will be on websites that made a separation between a mobile website and a desktop website.

Because of the way Google indexed before, most marketers focused on improving the desktop website for SEO purposes.

What you can do to fix this:

There are some temporary solutions. The most immediate one is to lead Google crawlers through your website, the best way is to implement switchboard tags (they indicate to the crawler that there is separate mobile (or in this case desktop) site. Also, make sure that you read and apply these best practices for mobile-first indexing.

Impact on responsive websites

The impact on responsive websites should be almost zero. Google explained that they are also doing their best to read hidden content on mobile websites.

Impact for desktop-only websites

Ironically, the change in this category is also minimal. You are already scoring low on mobile search queries if you don’t have a mobile-friendly website.

How to fix this:

Make your website responsive and mobile-friendly as soon as possible.

How can you best prepare for this change?

If you find yourself frightened reading the above, itís time for us to put your mind at ease now.

Google assured webmasters that they wouldn't do anything drastic.

The change from desktop-first to mobile-first will happen gradually, and they claim to be “migrating websites that they deem ready”. It will take years before they reach a complete mobile-first index. They are very keen on communicating issues via Search Console that they see on your website.

Regardless of their indexing, it is always good to check how mobile-friendly your website is according to Google. You can use the Google tooling for this, it ís part of the Search Console, and can be used without registering.

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website yet, it is time to get one as soon as possible.

From our statistics, we see that across all our customers less than 60% of users browse using a desktop. If you have a separate mobile website, there are some hotfixes that you can apply as we described in the section ‘Impact on mobile websites’. In the long term, you’ll be better off converting your website to a responsive mobile website, but there is no need to panic.