If you follow any search engine optimization or digital marketing news sources, you’ve likely heard a lot of buzz lately regarding Google and their move to mobile-first indexing. You might be confused though on exactly how this affects you, and what to expect. Let’s clarify exactly what the change to indexing is all about, and what you can expect as a website owner.
Let’s start with the basics: What is indexing?
Think of Google’s search results as a large library of all the content that’s available on the internet. When you do a Google search, Google is combing through its “index” of all of the information it has and trying to come up with the best results for you.
In order to add website pages into the index, Google needs to know the pages exist. It learns about the existence of these pages through a variety of means, such as through webmasters submitting their sitemaps to Google, links being shared throughout the internet, etc. Google has “bots” that are constantly crawling through the internet, following links to various sites and pages, reading the content of those pages, and adding them to its index.
What does the move to “mobile-first indexing” mean?
As little as a few years ago, the majority of website browsing happened on desktop devices, such as your desktop computer or laptop. However, in recent years, traffic from mobile devices (primarily smart phones) has been increasing, and desktop traffic has been decreasing. In fact, by 2015, more searches were now being done on mobile than via desktop. Google understands this shift in traffic and has put a lot of emphasis on making sure people coming from mobile devices have a good experience from the search results they click on.
Google has one single index. With desktop-first indexing, Google gave preference to the desktop experience that a site provided. It would also check for mobile friendliness and, as of 2015, began using that mobile friendliness (or lack thereof) as a ranking factor for searches from mobile devices. (A change that was commonly known as “Mobilegeddon”). This means having a poor mobile experience could cause your site to rank lower when someone does a search from a mobile device.
Google is now in the process of shifting everything over to mobile-first indexing. Under this new format, Google will now crawl your site as if it were a mobile visitor first and use that to create its index. If there is no mobile-friendly option, it will still index the desktop version of your page, but the overall mobile experience is what will be used for ranking.
Do I need to worry about my website and how it will index?
If your current site is mobile responsive, you’re likely good to go! Most mobile responsive websites present all the same information but optimized for the smaller screen. If you have a separate mobile version of your site (or a mobile app), it’s important to look at the content of that site and ensure all of your good quality content is available to be crawled by Google (and viewed by your visitors). If your current website is not mobile friendly at all, it’s time to get moving on improving the experience for your visitors! Mobilegeddon is already in place and may be affecting your ability to rank well when people search on a mobile device.
As of March 26, 2018, Google announced that they are rolling out mobile-first indexing on a more broad scale. It’s time to take a hard look at your mobile experience and make sure you’re giving visitors from all devices what they need! If your site is currently not mobile-friendly, talk to your Account Director today or contact us to see how we can help you.