The Switch to Mobile-First Indexing—What It Means for Every Business

Hand using smart phone over blur bokeh light background, business and technology concept, digital marketing, seo, e-commerce, network, internet of things

After a year and a half of testing, Google announced this past March that they will begin the process of migrating sites to mobile-first indexing. Sites that follow best practices for mobile-first will be notified of the migration via Search Console.

What does this mean for your business and your ranking on Google? Will all the hard work you’ve put into SEO be lost? What if you don’t have a mobile version of your website? Should you be hitting the panic button?

In a word, no.

Mobile-First Indexing Defined

Increasingly, people were searching Google on their mobile devices rather than their desktops. Google investigated how this was impacting site rankings.  With the existing system, Google’s algorithms were evaluating the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate relevance.

If the mobile site had less content or different content than the desktop page, they weren’t evaluating the page that the mobile viewer was seeing. By transitioning to indexing mobile-first, Google decided that search results would be more useful for mobile users.

It’s important to stress that the term is “mobile-first” not “mobile-only,” meaning your mobile site is the starting point for indexing, not the only one. For those whose desktop site and mobile version is identical, very little will change.

For those whose mobile site is not identical or who don’t have a mobile site, your desktop version will be first in indexing. Unfortunately, lack of a mobile site could negatively impact ranking, while a mobile-friendly site could see improvement in rankings.

What Does This Mean for Your Business?

First, it’s important to remember that Google is rolling out this change slowly, beginning the migration with sites that follow best practices. What that means is you’ve got some time to make some changes to see the benefits of this transition.

Second, if you currently don’t have a mobile site, it’s time to develop one. Mobile technology is quickly becoming the dominant resource for search and your business should be taking advantage of that.

Finally, Google has provided a comprehensive outline of best practices for businesses for mobile-first indexing. Some of these include:

  • Identical mobile and desktop sites. Both sites should have the same content, images (with alt-attributes), and videos in the standard crawlable and indexable formats.
  • Both versions should contain structured data. If you haven’t already, you should update URLs in the structured data on your mobile version to the mobile URLs.
  • Metadata should be the same on both versions. Titles and meta descriptions on both mobile and desktop should be comparable.

For more details and examples, you can reference Google’s Best Practices for Mobile-First Indexing.

Need Help With Mobile?

While Google assures site owners that mobile-first is “about how we gather content, not about how content is ranked,” they still encourage you to make your content mobile-friendly. If you have questions about mobile-first indexing, best practices, or developing your own mobile-friendly site, contact our developers online at Legit Click Media for help.