What is Google’s mobile-first index and how does it impact your website?

We’ve been hearing a lot about mobile-first indexing lately, as the latest development in Google’s continuing efforts to make the web more mobile-friendly. But there’s also a lot of confusion around what this means for the average business owner. Do you have to change anything? Everything? If your site is mobile-friendly, will that be good enough?

What is the mobile-first index?

Historically, in order to index web pages, Google used to evaluate their desktops’ versions first and foremost. To put it simply, indexing is the process by which a search engine scans and saves the information from a website. Based on this information, the algorithm can then decide what will be the ranking of the website for a specific keyword search. But since more and more people are accessing websites from smartphones, the emphasis put on desktops for the indexing process didn’t really make sense anymore.

The concept behind mobile-first indexing is actually easy to understand. It means that the mobile version will be considered the primary version of your website when it comes to indexing. It’s called “mobile-first” because it’s not a mobile-only index: for instance, if a site doesn’t have a mobile-friendly version, the desktop site can still be included in the index. But the lack of a mobile-friendly experience could impact negatively on the rankings of that site, and a site with a better mobile experience would potentially receive a rankings boost even for searchers on a desktop.

Is your website ready?

According to Google’s own latest guidance on the topic, if your website is responsive or otherwise identical in its desktop and mobile versions, you may not have to do anything differently (assuming you’re happy with your current rankings!).

That said, even with a totally responsive site, you’ll want to ensure that mobile page speed and load time are prioritised and that images and other (potentially) dynamic elements are optimised correctly for the mobile experience.

Take a moment to browse your website from a smartphone to make sure all your content fits in an easily readable manner. You’ll see that there might be many things for you to improve – from the content to the navigation and the layout.

Making sure your website has a great mobile experience is something you need to get started on yesterday! This will make a difference in your rankings.

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