I have been reading news and discussions about Google’s mobile-first indexing lately. I am sure, if you are also into marketing you have heard about it from someone. If not then this is a post for you. In this post, I am going to talk about what is mobile first indexing and should you be worried about it as a business? Would it affect how you promote your online business?
Many websites have already covered this topic at a great length. However, the reason to write this blog post is to reduce many confusions out there about what does mobile first-indexing really mean? How it could affect mobile SEO? Do businesses have to change everything from the ground up?
When you search for a query, Google or any other search engine you are using does not search the whole Internet to find relevant answers for you. Obviously, that will take too much time.
What Google does is that it sends out crawlers on the web. Crawlers are search bots (programs) which constantly look for new webpages on the Internet. The job of these crawlers is to visit, analyze, organize, and then save web pages in its database, which is known as an ‘index’.
What is Google Index?
The Google index is similar to an index in a library, which lists information about all the books the library has available. However, instead of books, the Google index lists all of the webpages that Google knows about. When Google visits your site, it detects new and updated pages and updates the Google index.
When these crawlers find new pages on your website, it indexes them if not already got indexed before.
Before introducing mobile first-indexing algorithm update, Google bot always first crawl and index the desktop version of the website.
After Google mobile-first index update, Google bot would be crawling a mobile version of the website, if there isn’t any mobile version then it will index the desktop version.
The question is why did Google make this change? According to Statcounter GlobalStats, there are more people using the Internet on mobile devices these days than a traditional desktop computer or a laptop. Mobile users are increasing every day.
That’s the reason Google is lately focusing to improve their search algorithms to index and give priority to the mobile-optimized website in search ranking.
Google mobile first-indexing means that Google bot or crawler first visit your mobile website before crawling the desktop version.
The term “mobile-first indexing” also reveals that now Google thinks that your mobile site is the primary one ready to get indexed. Therefore, if both versions of your website are optimized or you have a responsive design, then it will not make (theoretically) any significant change in your website’s performance in the search results.
How Will Mobile-First Indexing Affect your Site in Different Scenarios?
Let’s take a look at how mobile-first indexing could affect your business/site in different scenarios:
- Your Website is Responsive — If your website design is responsive and both, mobile and desktop, versions of your website contain the same content, you really don’t need to make any changes.
- You have Different Desktop and Mobile Websites — If the content of your desktop website is different from the content of the mobile site, then it’s better to consider making some serious changes to your website.
- You Don’t own a Mobile Site at all — If you don’t have a mobile website, doesn’t matter, Google crawler will only crawl your desktop version. But the point is, not having a mobile website, may reduce your rank in the search.
How to Get Your Business Ready for Google’s Mobile-First Indexing?
First of all, you don’t need to panic. For now, this change is in its early testing stages, and Google is rolling out with only those websites that it thinks are ready for the change.
According to the latest guidelines of Google on this topic, if your website is responsive or if the content of your mobile and desktop versions is similar, you don’t need to do further changes.
If you have a separate website for mobile devices, you need to check the following points:
- Analyze Your Data: Analyze your traffic using Google Analytics. How much traffic your website is receiving from mobile devices and how much traffic is coming from desktops. If you notice that traffic from mobile is increasing, you need to make sure that your site is ready for mobile-first indexing.
- Make Mobile Version a Priority: It is not necessary that Google penalize you for not having a good mobile website and a high-quality desktop version, but it will affect your ranking on the Google Search. Ensure that your mobile version contains all the content, images, and videos that your desktop version has. If your website is responsive, its page speed, design, and navigation should be optimal.
- Verification by Google Search Console: If you have a verified desktop version by Google Search Console then ensure that your mobile version is also verified.
- Media Sitemaps and XML: Make sure that links to all sitemaps are accessible from the mobile version of your website.
- Metadata: It is also important that your meta titles and meta descriptions are similar for all pages of both of your website versions.
- Server Capacity of your Website: You need to ensure that your servers can handle the increased number of crawls (especially, if you have a separate server for your mobile website).
Common Confusions About Mobile-First Indexing
These questions have been asked by my clients so I thought to answer them here.
Will mobile-first indexing add mobile web pages to a different index?
Google is not going to create another separate index for mobile web pages. There will be only one index. What will change is the way Google adds content to the index.
What if my mobile website has less content than the desktop website?
If the mobile version of your website has less content than the desktop version, Google will analyze it and rank it accordingly. Therefore, it is recommended to have the same content on both versions.
Why is Google moving to mobile-first indexing?
As more and more people have started using mobile devices for conducting searches, Google has analyzed that if the desktop version of a website has more content than its mobile version, the current index can create various problems. This is because the current algorithm only analyzes the desktop version of a site and not the actual page the user sees on his/her mobile device.
However, Google wants to display the best websites to its users on the first page, and moving to mobile-first indexing will help to do so.
Will it change the way I serve ads on my website?
If your current placement of ads is not creating a slow user experience, it’s fine as it is. Otherwise, you need to address this as a priority.
Google has not announced a timeline for complete mobile-first indexing, as they want to give enough time to businesses to get their mobile sites ready. But it’s time to be proactive.
It is a good time you analyze your desktop and mobile versions, and if there is something wrong, address the issue. It will help your business to maintain its visibility in the search results.