Mobile-first Indexing

The upcoming Mobile-first Index was confirmed by Google in November last year. The Mobile-first index is the process of Google’s search index being split into separate desktop and mobile versions. According to Google’s announcement, more people are searching on mobile devices as opposed to computers or tablets, which means the Mobile Index will better serve the majority of search users.
Google is still experimenting with this new update, meaning it has not been fully rolled out. Currently, Google’s search index is still a single index of websites and apps. Once this update is completely finalised, Google’s algorithm will use the mobile version of websites (a mobile-focused index). Experiments will be conducted within the coming months to ensure proper function and positive user experience.

How to Prepare for Mobile-first Indexing

Here are some recommendations from the Google Webmaster Blog which can help you stay on top of this mobile-focused index.

  • If your website is already responsive or dynamic serving (where the content is the same on mobile and desktop devices) you won’t have to change anything.
  • If your responsive or dynamic serving website is NOT the same (i.e. you have different content and mark-ups for desktop and mobile devices) then you will need to address the following factors:
    • Google recommends that you implement structured mark-up on both desktop and mobile version
    • Google has confirmed that webmasters will not need to make changes to their canonical links
    • For separate mobile websites, webmasters will need to add and verify the mobile version of the site

If your website is neither responsive nor mobile-friendly, Google will continue to index your desktop website even after this update is finalised. Whilst a proper and functional desktop website will still perform better than an incomplete mobile version of the website, it is likely that desktop-only websites will struggle in the mix against responsive sites when targeting audiences and competing for keyword ranking positions.
With mobile search results becoming more increasingly common than desktop search results, this update could have a significant impact on the digital performance of websites. It’s important to look towards better serving mobile search users in the future.