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Mobile-First Indexing: What Does It Mean for Your Business & Your SEO?


The talk of mobile-first indexing has risen once again. Google announced all new websites will be indexed using mobile-first indexing starting from July 1 2019. The action: make sure your website works well on mobile.

As always, Google is continuing efforts to reflect the behavioural trends of users. Advancements in technology combined with changes in human behaviour have brought the need to have mobile-friendly websites. After all, we are in 2019 and we do spend a lot of time on our phones!  

What is Mobile-First Indexing?

It’s as simple as it sounds. Rolling out since mid-2018, this update essentially means the mobile version of your website will become the default starting point that Google indexes and ranks from. With more than 49% of web traffic coming from mobile, the update doesn’t come as a surprise.

From 1st July 2019, the mobile version of your website will be considered the primary version of your website, but not the only version. The desktop site can still be included in the index, but a lacking mobile-friendly user experience could negatively impact your rankings and SEO efforts. Optimising your website for mobile devices should be a priority if you want to continue driving organic visits.

Will Mobile-First Indexing Affect Me?

In short, yes, this update will, or may have already affected you. The primary impact of this last announcement is on brand new domains, however, as the update has been rolling out since mid-2018, there’s a chance your website could already be subject to mobile-first indexing. Fortunately, Google Search Console now shows you the date your website switched over to mobile-first indexing, and if it hasn’t switched yet, you’ll soon be able to see when it does happen. This makes the process a lot easier for SEO teams to analyse the impact.   

Companies who register a new domain, who have migrated or who build a brand-new website that Google is not yet aware of, will now automatically default to mobile-first indexing. For older sites that are still index by desktop-first, Google will continue to monitor and evaluate your website, notifying you through Search Console when your website is ready for mobile-first indexing.

Desktop websites have historically been the focus for SEO and content strategies; mobile websites may not even include the same full-site content or the high-level structure. By not complying with Google’s update, you risk your website not being optimised for searches engines. Even if you have an amazing, well-optimised desktop website but don’t have a mobile site, times are changing, and you won’t necessarily rank higher than someone who does. This rule has been implemented by Google in a bid to make sure users always receive relevant search results and an optimum experience no matter what device they use.

How Can You Prepare for Mobile-First Indexing?

Google have shared guidance on how you can prepare your site for mobile-first indexing but in short, they will be assessing your website’s readiness based on the condition of content (including text, images, videos, links), structured data and other meta-data (such as titles and descriptions, robots meta tags).

If your website is mobile responsive and your site content is identical across desktop and mobile, you may not have to do anything differently. However, we advise you to run a few tests ensuring mobile page speed, load time and other features are optimised for mobile experience. Businesses should be considering user experience on mobile now more than ever and these factors particularly important:

Content: Does your mobile site contain the same content as your desktop site? If the answer to that question is no, you should consider that the primary content crawled by Google will be from your mobile site. This encompasses all content including text, images and videos.

Metadata: This should be present across your site by making sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of your website.

Structured Data: URLs in the structured data on the mobile version of your website should be updated to the mobile URLs.

Search Console: You should ensure both your sites are verified in Search Console to make sure you have access to data and messages for each. Google also recommends using a single URL for both desktop and mobile versions of your website to avoid confusion over separate URLs.

Server Capacity: As a business, you should ensure your servers have the capacity to handle a potential increase in crawl rate on the mobile version of your site.

For more information on how mobile-first indexing could affect your site contact WMG. If you need support with website building, our connected specialist agencies NetConstruct, Pinpoint and Statement have the expertise to help you develop a website that is compatible for both mobile and desktop.