How Does Mobile-First Indexing Work, and How Will It Affect SEO?


Mobile-first indexing has been grabbing the attention of SEO professionals for the last two years and the talk have intensified among the experts as Google is slowly making strides towards making the web more mobile friendly.

Mobile-first indexing indicates a major change in Google’s guidelines for SEO professionals and website owners. This has given birth to a lot of questions for site owners and experts. What are going to be the effects of mobile-first indexing? How it will change the search indexing and ranking of a website?

To get a clear idea of what Google is trying to do you have to first understand the process of indexing and ranking

Indexing and ranking

I will try to be as simple as possible. So when you index your website your website is crawled by the search engine crawler to read and store the information on your website. Basically the search engine is storing all the information of your website in its index, like a library.

Now when you compare ranking to indexing, it is the process after the complete indexing of the website. This is where the search engine uses the information it has stores in its index regarding your website to rank you on search results pages. Search engine will rank you on the basis of quality and relevance of your content with regards to your search queries.

Long story short, indexing is the foundation where ranking cannot be done without it.

Mobile-first indexing

Mobile-first indexing is exactly as it is written, it is indexing. It’s just a change in Google’s indexing policy, though a major shift, where your mobile site will be given first preference when indexing. That doesn’t mean that your desktop version will be completely disregarded but it will no longer be the primary version of your website.

This probably will not affect your website much as your website will just be having its mobile version indexed first. A problem may arise only when your mobile version is not up there with your desktop version, if the content is less on mobile version or if the videos and pictures are not there in the mobile version this may damage your rankings.

Why is Google moving towards mobile-first indexing?

Well this is a no brainer as with the ever increasing mobile traffic Google’s attention was bound to take a turn towards this. Majority of the users surfing the internet are mobile users, if you monitor the traffic of your website you will mostly see traffic from smartphone Googlebot. It was inevitable that Google was going to make website owners move toward mobile friendly versions of their website.

So what happens now?

There’s no need to get jittery about, I’ll tell you why. Firstly Google is in the testing stage of this process and is moving rather slowly and cautiously about it, only the websites Google deems ready for this change are being given this pill to swallow

Secondly it will not affect your business and ranking a whole lot if you have responsive version live, given that the website speed is fast and equivalent to the desktop version. If that is the case then you probably need not to worry.

Just keep your mobile website optimized and up to the task.

What should one do with their mobile website?

If you have a mobile version of your website, which you must have, then you need to keep a check on certain things.

  • Make sure your website have the same high quality or similar high quality content with the same information and keywords. Not to forget if you have images or videos on desktop version then they must be on the mobile version also. It is all about providing the consumer complete experience.
  • Same goes for meta titles and description of your website, keep them identical or similar to your desktop version.
  • Make sure your social buttons on the desktop version are also present on the mobile version of your website.
  • Also keep in mind that any links to the sitemap of your website on the desktop are present on the mobile version
  • Structured data must be the same for both mobile and desktop version of your website, just don’t add any irrelevant information within the structured data.

What if my mobile version is not responsive or I don’t have a mobile version for my website.

Firstly you need to understand that the ranking of your desktop version will not stop as there are still a very significant amount of users who use desktop versions. But if the mobile version of your website is not responsive then you are going to suffer for rankings. Not that you will be stuck are thrown down the pecking order but websites with responsive and equivalent mobile websites will be given more preference.

If you do not have a mobile version till now I would suggest to you to get one. Google is already forcing site owners to have a mobile responsive website and this has become a major ranking factor. So if you do not have one right now then you are still suffering with the ranking of your website. Not having a website responsive on mobile devices will put you down the priority list, websites with a mobile version will be given more preference.

So google will use mobile version to rank my website?

Basically what Google will do is index your mobile version first which means that Google will make mobile version of your website the primary version, as I mentioned that earlier. Keeping this in mind, your desktop version will still have its worth especially if you only have a desktop version, where I would advise you to get a responsive mobile version.

The only thing is that you will see search results vary on desktop searches and mobile searches. But that does not mean you disregard your desktop version. You will have to work equally hard on both versions.

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