Mobile-First Indexing: Your Guide to Google’s Big Shift
Let’s start at the beginning.
What Is Mobile-First Indexing?
The mobile-first initiative is an effort to address the growing percentage of mobile-users in today’s search landscape.
Back in March, on their Webmaster Central Blog, Google announced that they are rolling out their mobile-first indexing initiative more broadly which is a big change to how Google crawls and indexes your site. The push is on now and Mobile Indexing is being fully implemented.
What’s Changing about Google’s Rankings?
Per Google, “Mobile-first indexing means Google will predominantly use the mobile version of your websites content for indexing and ranking.”
But what does that mean?
Currently, Google crawls and indexes your site based on the desktop version of your site and the content that exists there. With this change, Google will be looking at your mobile site first and the content on that version to determine how your site is ranked.
Over the course of the last year, Google has been slowly experimenting with a small percentage of sites to make the switch to crawling, indexing, and ultimately ranking sites based on their mobile experience, not their desktop as they always have.
This doesn’t mean your desktop site isn’t important anymore, it just means that they will be looking at it as a secondary source, not the primary one for crawling, indexing, and ranking as it has been in the past. But even if your site is doing well organically, if it’s not responsive (mobile friendly), your ranking will drop substantially. Don’t lose those years of building your search engine position, contact us today.
How Mobile-First Indexing May Impact Your Site
Depending on how you handle mobile, this change may or may not directly affect your site.
- If your site is built in responsive design, you will see no impact, as your site adapts to all devices.
- If you have a separate m. site (or something similar) and your primary content does not exist on it, then you are at risk of seeing a negative impact as Google will no longer be looking at your desktop version.
- If you do not have a mobile site/experience then this change will negatively impact you. Also, it’s 2018: if you don’t have a mobile-friendly site then you have much larger issues that this change.
What Mobile-First Best Practices Can I Follow To Ensure I Maximize My Opportunity?
Google has published an entire list of best practices for mobile-first indexing on their developers’ blog.
While there are many things to consider and you should read through the entire list above, two major points are ensuring you have mobile-friendly content and that your site loads as fast as possible. Site speed is becoming an increasingly important ranking factor, which coincides with users’ needs to get everything as quickly and seamlessly as possible. With the rapid adoption of AMP (accelerated mobile pages) and the popularity of Progressive Web Apps (PWA’s) growing, it’s not surprising to see Google pushing site owners in this direction.
How Do I Know If Google is Using Mobile-First Indexing for My Site?
Google will be notifying site owners that their sites are migrating to mobile-first indexing through Search Console. The message will look like this:
So you need to make sure that if you have an m. version of your site, it is verified in Search Console.
You will also see a significant increase in the Smartphone Googlebot crawl rate and Google will show the mobile version of pages in search results and cached pages.
What Do We Think About This?
This is a major change in how Google interacts with our websites and makes sense as more and more traffic continues to move to mobile. While your desktop site will certainly remain important and Google will not be ignoring it, users have been trending towards mobile usage for years and this is the natural progression of our industry.
Companies need to take notice of this change. Thinking mobile-first should not be something that is kicked down the road and moved down on priority lists, from a search perspective this should be top of mind for all organizations large and small.
Should you be concerned? If you haven’t been paying attention to how your site functions on a mobile device, this probably isn’t going to pan out for you. The good news is that all websites are living documents and can be changed and updated. If you are coming in a little late to the game on mobile, then now is the time to improve that experience and ensure your site is set up to provide value to mobile users.
This is yet another banner that Google is waving to signal the importance of your mobile experience. If you have been neglecting it, now is the time to rectify that and putting people and resources behind it.
If you think your site is not mobile friendly or have tested it and know, contact us for advice to bring your website up to speed with the current technologies.