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Mobile-first Indexing – Everything You Need to Know

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Mobile-first Indexing – Everything You Need to Know about Google Mobile-first Indexing. Google is rolling out mobile-first indexing as we speak. But what does that mean for your ranking? Should you be worried? Should you do anything? Last week, Google explained a bit more about mobile-first indexing. In this post, I’ll talk you through five things you need to know about mobile-first indexing.

Google Mobile-first Indexing – Everything You Need to Know.

Mobile-first indexing

Last March, Google announced that they were going to start with mobile-first indexing. But what does that entail? It means that from now on, Google will base what it places in the index based on the mobile version of your site, whereas they used to index the desktop version of your site first. This switch is made because more and more searches come from a mobile device and to give those users a better experience, Google decided that it was time to prioritize mobile results. It is important to note that the mobile-first index is not a separate index, Google has only one index from which it serves the results.

1. Do not panic!

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Of more and more sites the mobile version will be indexed. That does not mean that anything big is happening. In fact, it probably doesn’t do anything to your rankings.

If Google indexes the mobile version of your site, you’ll get a notice in your Google Search Console. This means that Google will determine by the content available on your mobile site how you will rank — both on the desktop as well as on mobile. This sounds pretty big, but for most WordPress sites it’ll have minimal consequences. If you think about it, most WordPress sites have a responsive design. This means that both mobile and desktop display the same content. You’ll have nothing to worry about in this case.

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If you have different websites for mobile and desktop and your mobile website has far less content – you do have something to worry about.

2. Perform mobile friendliness test. Ranking without mobile is going to be hard

You do not have to have a mobile site to be in the mobile-first indexing, as Google will index desktop sites as well. But, it’s going to be hard to rank if your site is not mobile friendly. So there’s work to do for all of you who have not have a mobile-friendly site yet.

So what do you need to do? Check out Google’s mobile friendliness test and check whether or not your site is mobile friendly. In our experience, this is a minimum requirement. If your site does not pass this test, your mobile version is bad.

3. Think about UX on mobile

A mobile website needs a different design than a desktop version to appeal to your audience. Your screen is tiny. Google explained last week that hamburger or accordion menus are perfectly fine to use. These kinds of menus make sense; they help a mobile user to browse through your website. Putting content behind a tab to make the mobile experience better is also totally fine.

4. Write mobile-friendly

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Reading from a screen is hard. And reading from a mobile screen is even harder than reading from a big screen. To attract a mobile audience, you’ll need to have mobile-friendly copy. This means short sentences and compact paragraphs. You need to make sure your font on your mobile site is large and clear enough, and you need to make sure to use enough whitespaces.

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5. Check out those mobile snippets

Is your audience mainly mobile? Do they come from the mobile search results to your page? Or does most of your organic traffic come from the desktop SERPs? Make sure to check this in your Google Analytics.

If your search traffic is mostly from mobile Search Result Pages, make sure to optimize your mobile snippet in our snippet preview.

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Wrapping up on mobile-first indexing

Don’t panic about the mobile-first index Google is rolling out. If your website has a responsive design, your content will be similar on both desktop and mobile versions. If so, the mobile-first indexing will have little consequences for your ranking.

Check out Google official release of the Mobile-first indexing.

Today we’re announcing that after a year and a half of careful experimentation and testing, we’ve started migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing.

To recap, our crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page’s content, which may cause issues for mobile searchers when that version is vastly different from the mobile version. Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.

We continue to have one single index that we use for serving search results. We do not have a “mobile-first index” that’s separate from our main index. Historically, the desktop version was indexed, but increasingly, we will be using the mobile versions of content.

We are notifying sites that are migrating to mobile-first indexing via Search Console. Site owners will see significantly increased crawl rate from the Smartphone Googlebot. Additionally, Google will show the mobile version of pages in Search results and Google cached pages.

To understand more about how we determine the mobile content from a site, see our developer documentation. It covers how sites using responsive web design or dynamic serving are generally set for mobile-first indexing. For sites that have AMP and non-AMP pages, Google will prefer to index the mobile version of the non-AMP page.

Sites that are not in this initial wave don’t need to panic. Mobile-first indexing is about how we gather content, not about how content is ranked. Content gathered by mobile-first indexing has no ranking advantage over mobile content that’s not yet gathered this way or desktop content. Moreover, if you only have desktop content, you will continue to be represented in our index.

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Having said that, we continue to encourage webmasters to make their content mobile-friendly. We do evaluate all content in our index — whether it is desktop or mobile — to determine how mobile-friendly it is. Since 2015, this measure can help mobile-friendly content perform better for those who are searching on mobile. Related, we recently announced that beginning in July 2018, content that is slow-loading may perform less well for both desktop and mobile searchers.

To recap:

  • Mobile-indexing is rolling out more broadly. Being indexed this way has no ranking advantage and operates independently from our mobile-friendly assessment.
  • Having mobile-friendly content is still helpful for those looking at ways to perform better in mobile search results.
  • Having fast-loading content is still helpful for those looking at ways to perform better for mobile and desktop users.
  • As always, ranking uses many factors. We may show content to users that’s not mobile-friendly or that is slow loading if our many other signals determine it is the most relevant content to show.

Do take some time to evaluate the mobile version of your website. Check out its mobile parity — are your desktop and mobile site equal? Is your design good enough? Or could you improve? Are the buttons large enough to tap? What about your content? Could you make your text more readable for a mobile audience? Making sure your website has a kick-ass mobile experience is something you need to get started on. This will make a difference in your rankings shortly.

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