Will Mobile-First Impact Your Internal Linking?
The introduction of mobile-first indexing by Google this year has had a drastic effect on how some websites are performing in the SERPs and how businesses have had to adapt their overall online operation. However, there are some areas of this update that are still foggy to most and one of these is the best practices for internal linking within your site. Is internal linking still important, and how should we consider laying it all out? We’re investigating, below.
What Is Mobile-First Indexing?
Mobile-first indexing has been around for quite some time now, but despite clarifications posted by the search engine giant on their social media accounts, it’s still something that many businesses are struggling with. Essentially, mobile-first indexing was introduced in order to put mobile versions of a website first. Due to the ever-increasing popularity of mobile users in everyday searches, this was an understandable change, but it has since meant that websites have to improve their mobile offering and increase overall user experience. Google is now crawling mobile versions of a website first in order to determine ranking positions. While desktop was reported to still be important, more and more companies are starting to focus on mobile. So, how does this have an effect on linking?
Common Linking Styles And How They May Perform On Mobile
With the above in mind, how do you turn your desktop navigation into something mobile-friendly? As most webmasters will know, there are different ways of displaying links on your website, and they are as follows:
On your desktop, the main navigation is likely to sit at the very top of your website within the header, with extra links and other navigation-related content in a simple footer. However, this isn’t possible on mobile sites. With what can sometimes be hundreds of links within a website, providing bulky a navigation bar from the offset is often considered too much for mobile and in most cases, even on the desktop too. To craft a useable and understandable crawl path, it’s best to avoid putting all of your links into one main navigation as this can then become crowded.
Sitemaps are often linked to within the website’s footer and can provide visitor access to every page located on the website. In theory, this is a great way of forming navigation, especially when designed in an attractive manner. However, many sitemaps are considered ‘noindex, follow’ and as Google has developed, this becomes a nofollow. What this essentially means, is that Google won’t pay attention to any additional links added to your HTML sitemap and therefore, you’d need to index your site in order for it to be noticed and followed. This isn’t always feasible for large sites, but for those keen to ensure all of their pages are indexed on Google and crawl-able, it may be worth considering regardless. Although this can be a lengthy process depending on the dimensions of your site, it is worth sticking with to ensure that you get the best possible results.
Link blocks are essentially a form of a drop-down where the content and links are hidden behind ‘blocks’. In these cases, Google will not treat the content below these drop-downs in the same way as they’d treat any visible links and content, but this is often considered the best way to link on mobile. However, given the size of a mobile screen, there’s no room for bulky footers or headers and drop-downs often provide the cleanest and most smooth scrolling experience.
Although this may seem like coding that will clog up the site, this has the opposite effect on mobile as there is less space to fit all the information that you need. With streams and streams of content to read through this is not a user-friendly experience. This is a clear example of how content should be optimised and interchangeable with different devices. The choice is yours as to whether you decide to show the same content on both or make it shorter within mobile versions.
Clear Internal Links Are A Vital SEO Best-Practice
If you’ve been assuming that mobile-first indexing means better linking practices, then you’d be right. With this update, linking within a mobile site needs to be clear, concise and user-friendly. Google’s bots need to be able to navigate your site easily in order for them to deem your website user-friendly and the same still counts for mobile. Simple navigation that is easy to access and understand will undoubtedly rank higher than a cramped, confusing system that will drive visitors away.
By reducing the number of unwanted links that are present on your site, you can ensure that crawlers can crawl the site as quickly as possible in the manner that you want them to. Not only will this help you to achieve the site that you want, but by removing links and getting rid of re-direct loops, you can help to increase site speed and further optimise it to ensure that your site is indexed quickly to increase user experience. By having a large number of links on your webpage, you run the risk of it not scaling accordingly when viewing it on mobile, however, by cutting down the number of links present on your site you will increase the level of mobile optimisation.
Mobile-first indexing has changed a lot about SEO best practices, which includes internal linking. Finding the right navigation system that sits neatly, cleanly and avoids looking bulky or confusing, is the best way to promote a smoother experience not only for Google’s bots but for your users too.
Increased user experience is vital to ensuring that your website on both mobile and desktop are optimised to the fullest. With a higher user experience, you are likely to have less of a bounce rate to help increase your Google SERP’s results.
For help with your mobile site or for more information on mobile-first indexing, get in touch with one of our experienced team today to find out how you can optimise your site and gain a greater level of ROI. Contact us on 0800 088 6000 to learn more.