Google Rolls out Mobile-First Indexing: How it Affects Your Website & SEO Rankings

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Google Rolls out Mobile-First Indexing: How it Affects Your Website & SEO Rankings

By |2018-09-17T14:30:06+00:00September 13th, 2018|

Google Rolls out Mobile-First Indexing: How it Affects Your Website and SEO Rankings

Google is rolling out a new Mobile-first search index.

We live in a Mobile-first world. The change to a Mobile-first search index by Google shows how important Mobile has become.

Google began rolling out Mobile-first indexing to some websites that they considered were ready on March 26, 2018. The rollout is expected to continue for a while as they add more websites to the mobile-first index.

Since the majority of online searches are now made on mobile devices, the Mobile-first index is focused on their mobile users. The Mobile-first index ensures that a searcher on a mobile device gets directed to the mobile version of a website for a relevant search query. This ensures consistency and a good user experience.

A lot of people are confused about Mobile-first indexing. In this article, I will explain the Mobile-first search index and some frequently asked questions about it.

What is Mobile-First Indexing?

With Mobile-first indexing, Google’s systems will crawl, index and rank the Mobile version of a website. The mobile version of a website will be considered the primary version of the website.

The Mobile-first index is a big change in the way Google indexes websites for their search index.

Their previous search index was desktop-focused. They used to crawl, index and rank the desktop version of a website. The desktop version used to be considered the primary version of the website and the mobile version used to be the alternate version.

With the change to Mobile-first indexing, Google will still have a single search index for both the Mobile and desktop search results. There is not going to be a separate Mobile-first search index.

Why Is Google Changing to a Mobile-First Index?

Google has been adopting a Mobile-first strategy to address the tremendous growth in Mobile.

Here are some statistics on mobile device usage from Google:

  • In 2015, Google announced that the majority of online searches in the USA are made on mobile devices.
  • 4 in 10 users search online on smartphones only.
  • 94% of us browse the web each day. Of which, 71% of us browse the web using our smartphones.
  • 77% of mobile searches will occur at home or at work where desktop computers are also available.
  • 82% of smartphone users search online to find local businesses.

A Mobile-first search index ensures that mobile users have a seamless user experience when searching online on mobile devices.

When we make a search query and are directed to a mobile website from the search results, we will not have to pinch, zoom or scroll to read content. This provides a positive user experience to mobile users.

How Will I Know if My Website Has Been Added to The Mobile-First Search Index?

Google is notifying websites that have been transitioned to the Mobile-first search index. They issue notifications through Search Console to let you know if your website has been added to the Mobile-first search index.

Once your website is migrated to their Mobile-first index, they will show the mobile version of your web pages in their search results for relevant search queries.

You can check for notifications about Mobile-first indexing in your Search Console under Messages.

The Google notification looks like the image below:

mobile first indexing notification

What Should I Do if My Site Is Not Added to the Mobile-First Index? How Will It Impact My SEO Rankings?

According to Google, the Mobile-first indexing is about how they collect information for their search index. There are no search ranking advantages if you are added to the Mobile-first index.

If you only have a desktop version of your website, your site will still be added to the Mobile-first index and shown on the search results.

However, Google is encouraging all website owners to make their websites mobile-friendly and fast-loading.

Google has increasingly focused on a Mobile-first strategy. With “Mobilegeddon” in 2015, mobile-friendly websites were given higher rankings in the Google search index. In July 2018, they introduced a speed update, that helped fast-loading sites rank better in their search index.

Your website must be mobile-friendly and have responsive design for improved SEO (search engine optimization) rankings. In addition, it should load fast and provide a great user experience. Your website content and images must be optimized for mobile. Images must be small in size. Large images are slow-loading and will negatively impact your SEO rankings.

Having a mobile-friendly and fast-loading website helps to improve your SEO rankings on the Google search index. If you only have a desktop site, it is time to upgrade to a mobile-friendly and responsive website.

How Can I Get My Website Prepared for the Mobile-First Index?

Google is only adding sites that they consider to be qualified to the mobile-first index. The rollout to Mobile-first indexing is expected to continue for some time.

There are several things you can do to ensure that your website qualifies to be added to the Mobile-First search index.

  1. Make sure your website has responsive web design. Google recommends responsive web design. Websites with responsive design have the same content on both the desktop and mobile-versions of the website and they change size based on the user’s device. Responsive websites are prepared for Mobile-first indexing.
  2. For Dynamic Serving websites that serve different content based on the user’s device, Google will index the mobile-optimized content.
  3. For m-dot websites that have different content on their desktop and mobile versions, Google will use the mobile URL for indexing.
  4. For Desktop-only websites that do not have a mobile version, they will use the desktop content for indexing.
  5. For Canonical AMP websites, the mobile version is the same as desktop version for indexing.

For more information check this document on Mobile-first indexing:
Google Best Practices for Mobile-First Indexing

What Should I do if My Website has different content on Mobile and Desktop Versions?

Websites that have different content on the desktop and mobile versions of the website will need to make changes to prepare for the Mobile-First search index.

Here are some recommendations from Google:

  • Make sure that the mobile version of your website includes all the important content that your desktop version has. This includes text, images and videos.
  • Use structured data markup on both the mobile and desktop versions of your site. Also update the URLs in structured data to the mobile version on mobile pages.
  • Use Meta tags on both the mobile and desktop versions of the website. The titles and meta descriptions should be equivalent on both versions of the website.

For more information on getting your mobile and desktop websites in parity, read our article:
Gold Mango Design, Mobile-First Search Index – How to Prepare Your Website

Conclusion

A mobile-first strategy is essential today for digital marketing. The majority of online users are searching the web on mobile devices and that number is only increasing.

The introduction of the Mobile-First search index by Google is one more indication of how important Mobile has become. By crawling, indexing and ranking the mobile version of a website as the primary version, Google is ensuring that there is consistency in the search information presented to the mobile user. This makes for a better user experience and a happier user.

For a business website, it is essential to have a mobile friendly website with responsive design. A mobile-friendly website will help your business to reach the growing number of mobile users, many of whom search only on their smartphones. Mobile-friendly websites also have higher traffic, conversions and leads.

Having a mobile-friendly website is also important for search engine optimization (SEO) to improve search rankings. Since “Mobilegeddon” in 2015, mobile-friendly websites have had better rankings on Google in competitive search engine listings.

If your website is not mobile-friendly, it is time to upgrade to a mobile-friendly website. Contact a web developer to upgrade your website to a mobile-friendly and responsive design. You can also contact us at Gold Mango Design to upgrade your website.

References

1. Google Webmaster Central Blog, March 26 2018
2. Google Best Practices for Mobile-First Indexing
3. Google, Getting your site ready for mobile-first indexing, Dec 18, 2017
4. Think with Google, How People Use Their Devices: What Marketers Need to Know, September 2016

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Gold Mango Design LLC. helps small and medium businesses reach more customers with web development and digital marketing. Our digital marketing services include Responsive and Mobile Friendly Web Design, WordPress Web Development, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google Ads Marketing. Contact us at https://goldmangodesign.com


About the Author:

Tanuja Mahdavi is a web developer, engineer and digital marketing consultant. She is the owner of Gold Mango Design LLC, a web design and digital marketing company located in Plano, TX near Dallas. She blogs about web design and internet marketing. Follow her on twitter @goldmangodesign.