Google's mobile-first index update: preparing your website
Google will soon make mobile-first indexing the default. Google will mobile-first index all new websites right out of the gate, and offer existing sites assistance with becoming mobile-index ready. What this indexing update means and why having a mobile-friendly website has never been so important.
What is mobile-first indexing?
Google’s mobile-first indexing means that the mobile version of a website, not the desktop version, is considered first when evaluating, indexing, and ranking the site. Mobile-first indexing for all new websites will be enabled by default starting July 1st.
For websites which are not mobile-ready, Google will continue to use desktop-first indexing and continue to monitor these sites for mobile-first readiness.
In its May 28th announcement, the company said that it will continue to evaluate if older websites are set up for mobile-first indexing based on parity of content (text, images, video, links), structured data, and meta-data (titles, descriptions, meta tags).
Existing websites won’t be switched to mobile-first indexing until they are ready. Once ready, website owners will receive notification through Google’s Search Console.
Website owners can check at any time to see if their site is ready for mobile-first indexing by using the URL inspection tool.
Why Google is pushing mobile-first indexing
Essentially what the company is doing is recognising that users want to be able to locate the most accurate, relevant search results no matter what device they’re using. If Google only relies on desktop indexing, it may not turn up the best search results for mobile users.
Google has had mobile-first indexing in the works for a while. In December 2018, the company said they were already using mobile-first for more than 50 percent of pages shown in search results.
These days most websites are already designed to be mobile-friendly, so many website owners won't even notice the shift to mobile-first. According to Google, “analysis has shown that new websites are generally ready for this method of crawling."
To be clear, Google only uses one index. There aren’t separate indexes for mobile and desktop. This new update simply means that Google will first look at your mobile site when determining your rank. But it doesn't mean that Google will completely ignore your desktop site.
Is your website ready for mobile-first indexing?
It's worth noting that mobile-first indexing is not used as a ranking factor. It’s just a method by which Google indexes. That said, mobile-friendliness is, of course, a ranking factor. If your website is not mobile-friendly, your search results will be impacted.
For website owners, especially small business or e-commerce site owners, mobile-first indexing is a good reminder of the importance of designing responsive websites. When 78 percent of Internet users say it was via mobile they discovered a business they didn’t previously know about, emphasising mobile-friendliness in your web design is great way to capture new leads.
So don’t ignore desktop. But don’t overlook mobile either.
If you're unsure whether or not your site is mobile-friendly, try Google's simple mobile-friendly test tool.
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Each of these options provide mobile-friendly design solutions that give you everything you need to build a site that looks great on any device. And will give you a leg up when it comes to Google's mobile-first indexing.