Mobile-First Indexing: What Is It, and Why Does It Matter?

July 30, 2020

Chloe

Google recently announced that they will make the switch over to mobile-first indexing from March 2021, changing the way that website rankings are calculated. They originally planned to roll out these changes in September 2020, but the pressures of the coronavirus and the uncertain times we’re living in have pushed back the deadline.

Once this change happens, it’ll be more important than ever to have a mobile friendly website that delivers the best possible experience to your website visitors.

Here’s what you need to know about mobile-first indexing so you can protect (or even improve) your Google rankings, and help safeguard the future of your business.

What is mobile-first indexing?

‘Mobile-first indexing’ simply means that Google will use the mobile version of your website first for indexing and ranking.

However, despite what you might have heard, it won’t ignore your desktop website completely, or create an entirely new index when it does this. It will simply be a switch in focus that aims to deliver the best possible experience to 21st century users who generally spend more time on their mobile devices than on desktop.

Traditionally, Google primarily focused on the desktop version when calculating the rankings as it was presumed to be the ‘main version’ of the website. And for many years, it was.

However, over the recent five years, the use of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, has increased, encouraging Google to make these changes.

As Google said back in 2016, “…algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results…”

Why does mobile indexing matter?

As we’ve just mentioned, mobile indexing is becoming more important than ever because of the huge increase in mobile searches from smartphones, tablets, and other devices that continues to happen.

According to Statistica, “As of the first quarter of 2020, it was found that mobile devices accounted for 56 percent of organic search engine visits.”

 Therefore, if your website isn’t working optimally on mobile, your customers are unlikely to be getting an optimal experience when they visit your website.

They might get frustrated if links are too small to click, the page is unresponsive, or they simply can’t navigate your website as effectively as they can on a desktop computer. As a result, your bounce rates will increase, the image of your business will decline, and your customers are unlikely to want to come back. Not exactly ideal when you’re running a business, is it?

Additionally, once Google implements this mobile-first indexing, your website rankings are also likely to suffer if you don’t have a mobile-friendly version in place.

How can you improve your website for mobile indexing?

If you can make your website as mobile-friendly as possible, you’ll significantly improve your overall performance as a business. Your website visitors will be able to find the information they need quickly and easily, customer satisfaction will improve, and you’re much more likely to rank highly. Here are some tips that can help:

Make sure you have a responsive website

Above all else, you should make sure your website is responsive. This simply means that it will adjust according to what specific device is used to access your website, to help the reader enjoy the best possible user experience. If you don’t do this, it’s likely you’ll be hit hard by the switch to mobile-first indexing.

Focus on mobile page speed

Mobile page speed and load time are key factors that won’t just influence your Google rankings, but they’ll also affect how your website visitors experience interacting with your website. After all, if it takes too long, they’ll just get frustrated and click away. 

85% of mobile users expect pages to load as fast as, or faster than, they load on the desktop,” say leading technology service, Radware, adding that, “Two out of three smartphone users say they expect pages to load in 4 seconds or less.”

For that reason, you should work hard on improving your load speed before the mobile-first switch over happens. An easy way to do this include running a speed test in Google Search Console. The test will also highlight what you could improve so you can make the changes quickly and easily.

Create high quality content

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you’ll know that you should be consistently creating high quality website content if you want to rank highly. When the switchover to mobile-first indexing happens, you should also check that the mobile version of your website contains the same content as your desktop. Also check that you’re using ‘alt-attributes’ for your images.

Add your mobile site to Google Search Console

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to add and verify your mobile site with Google Search Console. You’ll be able to check how visitors interact with your mobile site and make any changes needed.

Test that your mobile site is accessible

Is your mobile site accessible to Googlebot? If you’re not 100% certain, you should use the robots.txt testing tool to find out.

Think about mobile user experience

You should also take time to consider how the elements on your page will look on mobile, as well as desktop. Choose your images carefully to ensure they don’t dominate the page, make sure any buttons are large enough to be clickable, make sure the text is large enough to read, and so on. It’s always worth viewing your website on different devices to see how the elements interact for your users.

 

There’s no need to be concerned about the switchover to mobile-first indexing. If you have a responsive, mobile-friendly website, you shouldn’t be too affected once it finally rolls out.

Otherwise, now is the perfect time to implement those tweaks and changes that will improve your website and help you maintain or even improve your rankings in 2021.

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