Google Mobile-First Indexing: What It Is & What It Means for You

Summary: Mobile-first indexing in Google is the priority indexing method Google is moving towards. The takeaway is that your mobile website must not only exist, it must provide a superior mobile experience for consumers, to help ensure best ranking results within Google.

You may have heard about ‘mobile-first’ and ‘mobile-first indexing’ in Google. This discussion has actually been going on since 2016. Google started moving some sites into its mobile-first indexing and now has accelerated that process. Google has continually said that mobile-friendliness is a top priority. This week’s announcement underscores that.

Engine-ius Marketing offers these definitions and directives to help you make sense of this critical Google update:

  • Google used to crawl the desktop version of a site first. Now it will crawl the mobile version first. Should there be no mobile version, the desktop version will still be crawled, and ranked.
  • Google says that the most mobile-friendly sites are being moved to mobile-first indexing. This was already underway, and Engine-ius Marketing had noted this change as early as two years ago. The shift to mobile-first indexing has accelerated with Google’s announcement this week.
  • It’s important to understand what ‘mobile-first indexing’ means, and the difference between it and desktop indexing, in Google, and why this change to mobile-first indexing is important.

Before: Desktop-First Indexing

  • Website’s desktop version is crawled.
  • If there is a mobile version, Google adds ‘brownie points’ for ranking the mobile and desktop sites.

Now: Mobile-First Indexing

  • Google attempts to crawl website’s mobile version.
  • If the website has no mobile version, the desktop version will still be crawled and attention will be paid to its elements (content, user-experience) for ranking purposes.
  • If the site offers a superior mobile version, then it will receive a higher priority in mobile search results.

Key point: Sites with especially good content (content that answers questions and is tightly aligned with users’ search query intent) may still rank well, even without a good mobile version of the site. But mobile sites that offer a great user experience AND great content have the opportunity for the best rankings (and the most potential click throughs).

The Ideal Google Mobile Indexing & Ranking Scenario

The best rankings will go to sites that not only have a mobile version, but provide the best mobile experience for users. This means:

  • Pages must load rapidly. Google has announced that page speed will be a ranking factor in its mobile-first index. Therefore, webmasters must make page speed a priority when optimizing their mobile pages. 1-3 seconds is ideal; the bounce rate climbs dramatically the longer pages take to load.
  • User experience is extremely important. Part of user experience is page speed. It also refers to a clean rendering page and easy-to-use navigation. If the user has to scroll side to side or pinch and zoom to access site navigation, then this is not considered mobile-friendly.
  • Websites should load and render well on all mobile devices. Websites will need to be tested to see how they load and render on tablets and smartphones; Android and iOS.

Key Takeaways

Google has made mobile-first a priority, so site owners must do the same, to ensure best rankings in Google search results. This is a key issue that cannot be placed on the back burner anymore. It is a top priority issue, and needs to be addressed by a site owner’s development team as soon as possible, to ensure that sites have the best opportunity for top visibility in Google SERPs.

Need help interpreting Google’s latest mobile-first announcement and how it affects your website in Google Search? Contact Engine-ius Marketing!

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