Google’s Mobile-First Indexing Announcement and What it Means for Your Website

This change may affect your rankings in search engine results.

Since most people check out websites on their smartphones or other mobile devices, Google announced that they will be using mobile-first indexing on websites shown in Google search results. What does this mean for your website? This means your website must be responsive to the formatting differences on a desktop versus a smartphone or tablet. Before we get into how your website may be affected, we first must ask the question:

What is mobile-first indexing?

Mobile-first indexing means Google will primarily use the mobile version of your website’s content for indexing and ranking websites. Indexing is the process by which Google and other search engines use keywords and metadata to sort internet search results. Therefore, the mobile version of your website must be formatted correctly for your site to show up in user’s search results.

However, if your website is lacking functionality and is not responsive while in mobile form, Google will not pick up on keywords and phrasing users may be searching for. Therefore, your website will not show up in Google’s search results, or maybe it will, but just not at the top of the list of results where it matters most.

Is my website responsive?

When a website is responsive, it is formatted within the code to adjust to any screen size, whether it be on a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. This means that users do not have to zoom in or out on their mobile devices to see the entire web page. When a site is not responsive, it becomes extremely difficult for a viewer to maneuver through the site and its features. For instance, if the website does not fit on a screen properly, it is hard for the user to see all the attributes and clickable links. The user may also have to scroll horizontally to view the entire page; this becomes tedious to the user.

How does mobile-first Indexing affect my website’s search engine optimization?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the organic online visibility of a website or a web page in search engines results. Naturally, Google picks up on content such as keywords and alt-text (used to describe images) and utilizes this information to rank websites in search results. If Google cannot properly read your page’s content or if your site does not have proper SEO formatting, your site virtually does not exist in relevant search results.

You do not need to worry about Google’s mobile-indexing change if your website is any of the following, as there will be no changes to your site’s optimization:

  • Desktop Only – Your site is desktop only and doesn’t have a mobile-friendly version
  • Responsive web design – Your site adjusts for screen size
  • Canonical AMP – All your web pages are created in AMP HTML; if you are unsure, be sure to consult with your website programmer

If your website is any of the following, please work with your web programmer to find the best practices to alter your site for mobile-indexing purposes:

  • Separate URLs – Each desktop URL has an equivalent different URL that serves mobile-optimized content. This site type is also known as an m-dot site. (Google prefers the mobile URL for indexing.
    • It’s important to note that if you have two separate sites for mobile and desktop sites, Google will only use the mobile version of your page for indexing and will miss the content present only in your desktop site.
  • Dynamic serving – Your site serves different content based on the user’s device and users only see one URL. (Google prefers the mobile optimized content for indexing.)
  • AMP and non-AMP – Your site has both AMP and non-AMP versions of a page so users see two different URLs. (Google prefers the mobile version of the non-AMP URL for indexing.)

This may sound confusing to you or like a lot to remember, so let us do the work for you. For a review of your website settings and how to improve upon them for a better search engine ranking, please call us at 1-855-776-4123 or fill out the contact form.