Mobile first index rolling out to more sites

April 16, 2018

Kerrie Ashall

When we mentioned Google’s mobile first index previously, we spoke about it being an experiment that was in its early stages. That situation has now moved on. While the index is still not being used across all websites, Google has announced that its reach is being expanded.

A small number of sites were already subject to mobile first indexing but this new announcement seems to be a big step forward. It’s starting to seem more likely that the mobile first index will be the sole index at some point.

Which sites will be affected?

According to Google, the new rollout will affect sites that follow best practices for mobile first indexing. The owners of the sites will be notified by message in the Google search console. This is where site owners already get all of the data, tools, and diagnostics to help make their website Google friendly and improve search engine rankings.

Sites that are affected by this new rollout will be subject to increased crawling by the smartphone Googlebot and the mobile version of the site will be the one that is displayed in search engine results.

Why is mobile first indexing so important?

The current index that Google uses to determine rankings in organic search results is compiled by using Googlebots to crawl desktop versions of websites. The Googlebots collect information that is stored in the index and used to decide which are the most relevant results when someone carries out a search using Google.

This method of indexing has become outdated as the use of mobile devices has grown. The majority of searches are now carried out using one of these devices. It does not make sense to use the information collected from a desktop site to produce search engine rankings for searches using a mobile device. After all, the mobile version of a website is often very different from the desktop version.

This means that a user may get results that are not accurate for their search. Knowing this to be the case, Google has developed the mobile first index to reflect the growing use of mobile devices when searching online.

What does this mean for you?

Even if your website is not included in the current rollout, this does not mean that you can afford to be complacent. Google has already stated that it would like the mobile first index to be the only index that it uses in the future. This latest announcement seems to show that Google remains dedicated to this aim. Up to this point, mobile first indexing may have seemed like something which may happen at some point in the future. Now, although the future of this type of indexing is still not completely certain, it does seem as though it’s a lot more likely to become a reality across the Internet, sooner rather than later.

This means that if you do not already have a mobile friendly website it’s time to be serious about developing one. Let’s face it, this makes sense anyway, given the fact that you could be missing out on business by not having a site that is friendly to mobile device use. Now, having to consider the effect on your search engine rankings gives you a further incentive to get your mobile web presence sorted out.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to start by using responsive web design; this is Google’s recommendation. Using this type of web design means that your site can be read using any size of device. This is not the end of the story, you have to think about every aspect of the mobile user experience, from the size of the font used to the ease with which links can be accessed. Doing this should mean that you are well prepared for when your website is subject to mobile first indexing.

Google’s announcement that it’s rolling out mobile first indexing to more websites is a big deal. It seems to be taking the new index from a “could be” to a “more than likely”. All of this means that every website owner needs to think about how their site will fare when the mobile version is used to determine search engine rankings. If you are a website owner, this is something that needs to be a priority today rather than something which you will get around to doing tomorrow.

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