Hold onto your hats ladies and gents! The long-awaited mobile-first index is officially rolling out. The search industry has been talking about this change for over a year and a half, and after a lot of testing Google has officially announced the rollout has begun.
What is the Mobile-First Index?
Since the inception of the internet, Google has crawled, indexed and ranked content based on the desktop version of a website. Of course, in the beginning, there weren’t any mobile versions to speak of. Once mobile search began surpassing desktop, Google was already looking for ways to enhance the user experience and better server mobile consumers.
As more searches now happen on mobile devices than desktop, Google has implemented mobile-first indexing which means they will now look to the mobile version of a page for indexing and ranking.
Google clarifies, “We continue to have one single index that we use for serving search results. We do not have a “mobile-first index” that’s separate from our main index. Historically, the desktop version was indexed, but increasingly, we will be using the mobile versions of content”.
What Does This Mean for You?
This change has been a long time to come, with a lot of fair warning from Google. If you’re still making changes, don’t delay! Here are the most important action items during this change:
One of the best ways to prepare your site for the mobile-first index is to ensure it is mobile-friendly. Although responsive sites are one of the more popular methods, there are several other ways to ensure your site is up to par. Google has a great guide documenting the ways you can make sure your site is ready. You can also use Google’s Mobile-Friendly tool to test the pages on your site.
While Google has been tight-lipped about ranking factors in the past, one thing they have made clear is that mobile speed will be a ranking factor in the mobile index. Mobile speed is also very important for a positive user experience and can increase engagement, so the reason to boost your speed is twofold. See how your site fares with Google’s Mobile Speed tool
As the rollout continues, Google will be notifying sites that are migrating to the mobile-first index through Search Console. Once notified, you will see an increase in crawl rate from Smartphone Googlebot. You will also begin to see Google showing the mobile version of your website pages in the search results and Google cache.
There are a number of additional considerations that you’ll want to think about relating to SEO as Google continues down their path of Mobile first. The sooner you engage with conversations about these changes with your SEO team the better!
So, there we have it. The official commencement of the mobile-first index. We will begin to know more about the ranking implications once the change is implemented across more sites. Until then, we encourage site owners to take the necessary steps to ensure their sites follow Google’s mobile guidelines and to think holistically about the driving force behind this change, mobile users first.
Contributed by: Erica Garman