Be prepared for Google’s mobile-first indexing and take action now!

  • By Mark Fewings
  • 15 November 2016

LIKE it or not, it’s a fact that most people are now carrying out online searches using a mobile device.

Whether that’s on an iPad, a tablet or a mobile phone; the impact it’s had on organic search has been enormous.

Now, after years of speculation from online marketing experts and SEOs around the world, Google is finally set to change its algorithm to reflect that device shift with a ‘mobile-first indexing’ approach.

Here’s why:

At the minute, Google currently looks at the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate its relevance to the user.

This can sometimes cause frustration for users by displaying pages which cannot be read or accessed properly on a mobile device.

In the future, this will not be the case.

Doantam Phan, Product Manager at Google, explained: “Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”

Described as “an important shift” in the future of search, this move is not expected to happen for a while yet.

But, as with all advice issued by Google, they are letting website owners, agencies, SEOs and developers know about the algorithm change now to allow everyone to prepare for the move to a mobile-first index.

Here’s the good news from Google:

“If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything,” said Phan, in a statement on the official Google Webmaster Blog on November 4, 2016.

Unfortunately, there is some bad news too:

Phan added: “If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site.”

So, what does that mean for the average website owner?

Put simply, anyone with a website that does not have a mobile version needs one - and quick!

Or, if you really want to avoid getting left behind in the search engine results pages (SERPs), you need to go one step further and invest in a fully responsive website.

Okay, so Google don’t say this explicitly – but they don’t ever tend to do that.

Instead, they issued a list of extensive and time consuming maintenance advice for all website owners, which can be found here.

However, when reading between the lines, this mobile-first index looks as if it’s being rolled out to encourage investment in responsive websites. This is probably because these sites deliver a consistent user experience regardless of what device has been used to conduct the initial search.

Google may sometimes be a little bit cloak and dagger about its algorithms, but it’s never hidden the fact that all it’s ever wanted to do is deliver the best (and most relevant) search result possible to their users.

Introducing ‘mobile-first indexing’ is just another step towards that.

Get your website ready for this major change, email today.