September 17, 2017

Mobile-first Index is Around the Corner: Move from m-dot to Responsive Sites


Back in November 2016, Doantam Phan, Product Manager at Google, stated in the Official Google Webmaster Blog that “Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site.” Google will shift to mobile-first index in the near future, meaning search result rankings will be listed based on the mobile version of a site. Site owners should make sure their sites are mobile friendly and have the same content across various platforms – in other words, shift to a responsive website.

But the change is not here yet. Google Webmaster trends analyst, Gary Illyes, stated at a conference that the change will probably be implemented only in 2018. Even so, Google wants you to be prepared. This week, Google published a blog post guiding webmasters on how to effectively shift from m-dot websites to responsive ones:

With more sites moving towards responsive web design, many webmasters have questions about migrating from separate mobile URLs, also frequently known as “m-dot URLs”, to using responsive web design. Here are some recommendations on how to move from separate urls to one responsive URL in a way that gives your sites the best chance of performing well on Google’s search results.

Google recommends following these steps:

      1. Make sure you have a responsive website – meaning you will be able to merge mobile and desktop websites to one URL.
      2. Set up 301 redirects from the old m-dot URLs to the new responsive pages. This needs to be done for each URL individually.
        301 redirects
        Photo credit: 
        Google Webmaster Central Blog
      3. Get rid of conditional redirects or special mobile URL configurations.
      4. Configure self-referential canonicals on the responsive URLs.

Not only will shifting to a responsive site be beneficial once the mobile-first index comes along, it will also “make it much easier to adopt practices and technologies such as hreflang for internationalization, AMP for speed, structured data for advanced search features and more.”

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