Mobile-First Indexing and What it Means for SEO

Google and other search engines are constantly trying to adapt to user behavior trends and considering that more than half of search traffic is now from tablets and phones, mobile-first indexing will soon be the norm. Mobile-first indexing has a lot of business owners wondering what this means for their sites. Will they have to change their entire site? Will their rankings change if their sites are less mobile-friendly than others? We’ll walk you through what mobile-first indexing means for your site and how to make it work for you.

Mobile versus desktop traffic
Check Your Website With Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

Does Mobile-First Indexing Mean My Desktop Site Will Be Ignored?

Not necessarily. Mobile-first indexing means that the mobile version of your site will now be considered the main version of your site. Previously, Google would index the desktop version of the site first meaning that even if a site was not optimized for mobile it might still rank higher in mobile results. With mobile-first indexing by the Smartphone Googlebot, though a site that is poorly optimized for mobile may rank lower in mobile and desktop results. The good news is that if your site is already optimized for mobile you will likely not have to change much if you are already happy with your Google rankings. The bad news is that if your site was ranking well before, but you have poor optimization for mobile, you may see your rank drop.

Mobile-First Indexing is Live, Is Your Site Ready?

According to Google, if your site is already responsive, meaning that your website automatically adjusts to fit any screen a user has, then your site is better off than most when it comes to mobile-first indexing. If your website is poorly optimized for mobile or isn’t responsive that should be your number one priority. A lot of search engine optimization is making sure that users’ experience when using your site is the best possible. Google Algorithms are always working to favor websites that provide the best user experience, this is evident of Google rolling out the mobile-first index.

Responsive web design example

Think Mobile-First Indexing Won’t Affect Your Site? Run Through This Checklist to be Sure

Optimizing your site for mobile should always be a priority, but is now even more important in the face of mobile-first indexing. If you have a mobile site that is separate from your desktop site, you need to pay attention to it now more than ever.
  • Does your content load quickly? – Even if your site is already responsive, users consistently want faster sites. Google has always taken the speed of your site into account when determining your ranking, but this is even more important with the Smartphone Googlebot. While mobile internet is constantly getting faster, it still can use all the help it can get making optimized page design essential.
  • Structured data – If you don’t already have structured data implemented on your site, you should. Make sure that all the schema markup that’s implemented on your desktop site is implemented on your mobile site as well.
  • Content – Any content that is on your desktop site should be included on your mobile site as well. Doing this means that you don’t risk any high value or useful content on your desktop site ranking poorly because it doesn’t appear on your mobile site.
  • Meta Titles and Meta Description – Make sure that the titles and descriptions for your desktop and mobile pages have all the same keywords and information. This doesn’t mean that they need to be exactly the same, but they should be as close as possible.
Google has also made some guidelines that will help make sure that your site won’t be harmed by mobile-first indexing.

Does Mobile-First Indexing Mean That Google has a Separate Mobile Index?

No. This change to Mobile-First Indexing doesn’t mean that Google is making changes to the index itself. Instead, Google is changing how new content is added to the index. This also means that just because Google is moving towards mobile-first doesn’t mean that your desktop site is being wiped from the index and your mobile site is being put in its place, only that your mobile site working well will be a larger deciding factor of how your site ranks.

Time is Up to Prepare for Mobile-First Indexing

Google claims to be rolling out mobile-first indexing gradually, but the truth is that mobile-first indexing is already live. If your site is not optimized for mobile or if your site scores poorly on Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, then your site needs to be fixed yesterday. For now, Google is notifying websites that are being switched over to mobile-first indexing. Even if you haven’t received a notification about your site though doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be doing everything you can to make your site attractive to a mobile-first index. The world of SEO is constantly changing and it can be hard to stay on top of it. You’ve probably worked hard to get the rankings you have now and in the face of mobile-first indexing, a professional SEO and web development company can help you keep them.