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How Mobile-First Indexing Affects Your Website

Posted by: Rose Fields 

Google has officially announced the roll-out of it’s mobile-first indexing. Mobile-first indexing began prior to Google’s official announcement on March 26, but it was the first time they’d made an official announcement on their own channels.

For now, Google is only moving websites which already follow their best practice guidlines for mobile-first indexing. Responsive websites that re-size to fit the device it’s being viewed on will be seeing the results of mobile-first indexing sooner.

Responsive websites are websites which:

  • Have a fluid grid that isn’t set to fixed measurements
  • Uses CSS media queries which define the break-point where a design changes
  • Has text and images that are flexible to fit various device sizes

Respsonsive design doesn’t mean making a website fit to a specific screen size but rather is about making the website useable on multiple different screen sizes. Your website should be tested in multiple browsers as well as on multiple devices to ensure it renders correctly.

What is Mobile-First Indexing

In Google’s recent announcement, they define mobile-first indexing as:

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.

What this means is that Google will only crawl and index the mobile version of your website. More searches are being done on mobile devices versus desktop versions. Google wants to ensure that the majority of the users are finding content that is optimized for the screen which they’re using.

If your website has a device type redirects or uses “rel=alternate” then this is what the mobile-first indexing crawler will use to index your website. If there is content which is only able to be seen on the desktop version of your website, then the mobile Googlebot won’t see this information and it won’t be included in the mobile-first index.

If your website doesn’t have a responsive design or isn’t mobile-friendly, Google will still see these pages and they will be indexed but they won’t have the “mobile friendly” designation added to them.

Affect on Your Rankings

Since 2015, mobile-friendly content has generally been ranked higher in the search engine results when a search was performed on a mobile device. Google has stated that mobile-first indexing will not change or have any impact on your current website rankings.

Notifications to Site Owners

As sites are being migrated over to mobile-first indexing, Google is notifying them via search console. While your site is being migrated, you will notice an increate in crawl rates from the smartphone Googlebot.

What Can You Do

  • Stay updated by reading Google’s webmaster blog
  • Make sure your website is responsive and that your important content is accessible on mobile devices

Mobile-first indexing will take some time to roll-out to all users so you have some time to get your website ready. Be sure to get started by making your website responsive if you haven’t done so already.

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