What is mobile first indexing and how does it work?

Google’s Mobile-Friendly Changes

Google boasts that 1.17 billion people use Google as their search engine. Plus, statistics show that people are increasingly using mobile devices for web browsing. Mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic since 2014. This means that when Google announces that they have a better way to make the Internet more mobile-friendly, it makes sense for business owners to take note.

Most businesses couldn’t succeed without a website, and unless that website includes great content, it’s not going to figure very high in search engine rankings. This is why it’s so critical to understand what Google’s bots look for when they determine which websites should be placed on the first page or two of search results, which is often as far as the average person looks.

Solid search engine optimization practices help your website to place higher in the rankings of search results. Within the last year one of these practices is mobile-first indexing.

What Is Mobile-First Indexing?

Most websites are responsive, meaning they will adapt to the screen size for whatever device is being used. Few businesses have two versions of their website. One is optimized for viewing on a desktop computer. The other is optimized for viewing on a mobile device. Since people are using mobile devices for web browsing more frequently, it’s critical that website’s are truly mobile-friendly.

This is crucial because of mobile-first indexing. Google is using mobile versions of websites as a starting point for determining where particular search results should be ranked. This doesn’t mean that Google only looks at the mobile version. However, it does look for a mobile version first, and not having a mobile version may mean that a website doesn’t feature high in the search results.

How Does It Work?

The gradual switch to mobile first indexing indicates a shift in focus. Google now considers the mobile version of a website as the primary website because it reflects how people are browsing. Traditional thinking held that the desktop version was primary while the mobile version was alternative.

Accordingly, the desktop version of the website had most of the content and important SEO tools like backlinks. Mobile versions might not have had all of the capabilities and content that were available on the “primary” website.

Many business owners may have already ensured that their mobile and desktop websites are identical. Most websites that are responsive are ideally set up for mobile-first indexing but you still need to know how this can affect your website.

How Will It Affect Your Website?

These changes are occurring slowly, so the impact is not immediate. However, businesses that have identical mobile and desktop versions of their website may not need to do anything.

Businesses that don’t have a mobile version of their website or that have a basic mobile website, may already be seeing a drop in organic visibility online.

What Can You Do?

If your website is responsive, you may not have to do anything. You will want to prioritize load time and page speed on your mobile website to ensure the best experience and make sure the mobile version of the site does not have technical issues that could affect it’s “mobile-friendly” status.

It makes sense to review mobile websites to ensure that there’s quality content that adds value to the customer. Ensure metadata equivalencies on mobile and desktop versions of the website, and include the same structured data markup on both.

Mobile-first indexing has been in progress for a couple year and is in its middle stages, but it seems poised to become a critical element for business websites. It is wise to start optimizing your websites now to ensure that there is no penalty.