Google’s New Mobile-First Search Index – How To Prepare Your Website

It’s a mobile-first world. Searches made on mobile devices have exceeded desktop searches on Google since 2015. Since the majority of searches are now made on mobile devices, Google is changing their search index to a new Mobile-First search index.

Google began rollout of their new mobile-first search index on March 26, 2018. They are adding sites that they believe are prepared to the mobile-first search index. The rollout is expected to continue for a while.

Online Searches Have Gone Mobile

A majority of online search queries on Google are now made on mobile devices. We are using our smartphones to search for products online, research product information and make a purchase.

Here are some statistics from Google on mobile searches,

  • In 2015, the number of search queries on mobile devices on Google in the USA exceeded those on desktops.
  • 94% of people with smartphones search for local information.
  • 4 in 10 (39%) users search only on their 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.

These statistics show that people are increasingly choosing to use their smartphones to search for information online, even when desktop computers are available.

How Is Google’s New Mobile-First Search Index Different?

Previously, the Google search index looked at the desktop version of a web page to determine search rankings. When the Google software or “Googlebot” crawls a desktop website, the information on the web pages is stored by Google in their massive search index.

With the old search index, when a user performed a Google search for an item like “sports shoes”, Google went through their search index to determine which websites are relevant to the search. It then served up pages of relevant search results about “sports shoes” to the searcher. The web pages that are most relevant to the search had the highest search rankings and were featured on the top pages of the search engine results pages (SERP).

There could be an inconsistency if a search is performed on a mobile device, and the results presented on the Google search results are from the desktop version of the website. When the searcher clicks on a link in the search results, he is directed to the mobile version of the desktop page because he is accessing the site from a mobile device. The mobile version of the site could have different information from the desktop version of the site which was indexed and presented to the searcher in the search results. If the mobile version has different information, the searcher would not find what he is looking for on the mobile page. This would result in an annoyed customer and a poor user experience.

Since most searches today are being made on mobile devices, Google is changing its index to a Mobile-First search index. Google is going to start crawling and indexing the mobile version of a web site to determine search rankings. This means that the “Smartphone Googlebot” will start crawling websites.

With the Mobile-First search index, the content and featured snippets in the search results pages will be drawn from the mobile version of the website. Search rankings of web pages will be determined by the information on the mobile version of the website.

By crawling, indexing and ranking the mobile version of a web page, there are less inconsistencies between the information requested by the user on a mobile device and the information presented to them in the search results.

By taking the information from the mobile version of a website, it ensures that the mobile web page that the mobile user is directed to from the search results will have the information that he (or she) is looking for. This results in a good user experience.

How to Get Your Website Prepared For the Mobile-First Search Index

  1. Websites that have Responsive Web Design with the same content on the mobile and desktop sites will not need to change anything.

    mobile search index responsive design

    A website with responsive design has the same content on the mobile and desktop versions of the site. It will change in size and format to be easy to read and use on devices of all sizes including mobile devices, tablets, laptops and desktops. In other words, in a responsive website the server sends the same HTML code to both mobile devices and desktop computers, only the CSS code changes with each device.

    If your website is responsive, you do not need to make any changes. You are ready for the Mobile-First search index.

  2. Websites that use Dynamic Serving with the same content on the mobile and desktop sites will not need to change anything.

    In a website that uses Dynamic serving, the server responds with different HTML and CSS code to a mobile device and a desktop computer on the same URL.

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

    Here are the website changes recommended for these sites by Google on their Webmaster Central Blog. You can send this list to your web developer:

    • 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 versions of the website. The titles and meta descriptions should be equivalent on both the mobile and desktop versions of the website.
    • If your website uses separate mobile URLs, keep the existing link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate tags.
    • For international sites that use link rel=hreflang elements for other language sites, your mobile URL should link with the other language/region version of other mobile URLs, and desktop URLs should link with other desktop URLs.
    • The web server hosting your websites should have enough capacity to handle increased crawling by the Smartphone Googlebot.

Google has said that they will evaluate sites independently to determine if they are ready for Mobile-First indexing and will transition them only when ready. They also indicate that it will be a slow rollout to the new Mobile-First search index.

Meanwhile, Google has already started adding sites to the new Mobile-First search index. The rollout began on March 26 2018.

Sites will need to get their mobile websites prepared to be added to Google’s new Mobile-First search index.


Google has started rolling out their Mobile-First search index on March 26, 2018.

Google has been increasingly focusing on a mobile first strategy. In April 2015, Google began to use mobile-friendliness as a search ranking factor. Mobile friendly websites began to get higher rankings in the search listings.

The change to a Mobile-First search index by Google is one more step that shows how predominant Mobile has become. Crawling, indexing and ranking the mobile version of a website will ensure consistency in the Google search information presented to the mobile user.

For a business website, it is essential to have a mobile friendly website with responsive design. Your website should be easy to use by the customer on a mobile device.

With the new Mobile-First search index, having a mobile-friendly website is also important for search engine optimization(SEO) to ensure that your website ranks well in competitive search engine listings.

If your website is not mobile-friendly, it is time to upgrade to a mobile-friendly website. Without a mobile-friendly website, your business will not reach the growing number of mobile users, many of whom search only on their smartphones.

First Published: January 25, 2018. Updated: September 17, 2018.


1. Google, Getting your site ready for mobile-first indexing, Dec 18, 2017,
2. Gold Mango Design, Google’s Mobile-First index and its SEO impacts, Jan 30, 2017,
3. Google Webmaster Central Blog, Mobile-First Indexing, November 4, 2016,
4. Think with Google, How People Use Their Devices, Sep 2016
6. Google Webmaster Central Blog, March 26 2018
7. Google Best Practices for Mobile-First Indexing

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