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What is Mobile-First Indexing for SEO?

mobile first indexing
18 Apr 2018

What You Need to Know About Google’s Latest Announcement

If you haven’t heard Google’s latest announcement, here’s the crux of what you need to know. Google has finally started rolling out their mobile-first indexing. If you haven’t optimized your site for mobile yet, this isn’t the death knell of websites designed for desktop. But it does mean that Google has taken another step on the road to prioritizing the user experience for mobile and other devices. If you weren’t paying attention to the importance of mobile use before, you might consider how it will impact your rankings going forward.

What the Mobile-First Indexing Rollout Means – A Basic Primer

Google will index mobile sites separately from the desktop version. If your site has two different versions, one for mobile and one for desktop, the mobile version will be indexed first. 

Prior to this rollout, Google was using the desktop version of website content to rank it according to search terms used. And prior to 2016, the only site they were looking at for content was the desktop version. This caused problems when the mobile version didn’t contain the same content. The site would rank because of its robust desktop content, yet when the user would pull up the page on their mobile device, a lot of this content would be missing.

To solve this issue, Google will now evaluate mobile sites for their actual content, and then index and rank them accordingly—and the mobile sites will be indexed separately from the desktop version. Even though the sites will be indexed as individuals, Google itself will only have one index they refer to. Which means if your site has two different versions, one for mobile and one for desktop, the mobile version will be indexed first. If your site only has a desktop version, it will still be ranked as usual.

What you need to know about mobile-first indexing:

  • Sites are being evaluated individually. Once a mobile site meets best practice requirements, it will be migrated over to the index. The mobile version will not be migrated over before it’s ready.
  • There’s no change for a site that only has a desktop version. If you haven’t optimized for mobile, your mobile version will be identical to your desktop version, so there’s no change.
  • If you have a responsive website design (your site adjusts for screen size but content is the same), there will be no change. Since your content and markup is the same on both devices, they will both be indexed, and your mobile version will gain precedence.
  • If you’re using dynamic serving or separate URLs based on the devices used, the best protocol is to make certain that the same content is available on both versions.
  • If you have put AMP (accelerated mobile pages) stories to use, they will still rank well, but mobile sites will still be the priority in Google’s ranking system—and they should be your priority, too.

What to Take Away from Google’s Mobile First Announcement

Probably the best quote we’ve heard to completely explain the new mobile-first indexing came from Google themselves:

“With mobile-first indexing, Google is like a single library that is now beginning to replace print books (desktop pages) with ebooks (mobile pages). Over time, the library will be mostly ebooks (mobile). But print books (desktop) will always remain part of the mix in the library.”

If you haven’t paid attention to mobile optimization, now is the time to make sure that your users are getting the best experience from mobile and other devices. This isn’t a process you should rush, though.

seo strategyThe concentration needs to be on user experience, which includes page load speed and the use of all of the features on site. Sometimes efforts, such as adjusting the size for the screen, don’t work well with design details. It’s important to test on different devices to make certain that all buttons work, font is legible, and pop-ups don’t obscure the user’s ability to navigate through your site.

Interested in Mobile Optimization for Your Site?

If you want to make sure that your content ranks well and performs in this new mobile-first indexing landscape, it’s important that your mobile optimization efforts are on point. You don’t want to just rush the effort and wind up with mobile pages that don’t capture the same usability as your desktop design traditionally offers.

At Zero Gravity, our expert staff can evaluate your current site and help you develop the right mobile optimization plan. Contact us today for more information.