Mobile-First Websites for SEO

Google search on a mobile phone

Mobile devices for many years have been taking over desktops as the main way of accessing the internet. Google continually updates its search engine indexing to improve the results provided when searching with Google.

In May 2019, Google announced mobile-first indexing will be by default for new websites not previously known to Google. The change won’t likely affect the SEO for your website but there are some considerations to be made.

Ensuring a website works well with mobile devices is a must, otherwise, users may be turned away from a poor experience trying to read a website designed for a desktop, pinched so small it can’t be read. A website with good SEO for desktop users won’t help mobile users if they won’t stay.

What is Mobile-First Indexing?

Indexing is what Google does when it looks at a web page and adds it into Google Search. The contents, title, description and other bits of information on the web page are stored and used by Google Search to match searches with the web page.

Indexing is done by a Google bot, software that looks for web pages and downloads them from a website. As with a browser, the Google bot identifies itself as being desktop or mobile based.

Mobile-first means Google will look at the mobile version as the main version of your website. Mobile-First Indexing means the mobile version of your website will be indexed in Google search, so the mobile version is where SEO is more important.

What has changed in 2019?

The announcement in May 2019, for new websites to have mobile-first indexing enabled by default, will start 1st July 2019. Previously, new websites had desktop-first indexing and Google would monitor and evaluate the website.

When a website is using desktop-first indexing, Google will notify through Search Console when it has been evaluated as being ready to change to mobile-first.

Existing websites still using desktop indexing will continue to be monitored and evaluated by Google for their readiness and notify them through Search Console when it is seen as ready.

Does Mobile-First Change Ranking?

Generally, no. If your website displays the same content to mobile and desktop, then the content indexed will essentially be the same.

Many websites use a responsive design, meaning the web page adjusts in response to the size of the browser it is being displayed on. If your website shows different content to desktop users, with mobile-first indexing the mobile content is indexed and desktop search results will be based on the mobile version of the website.

Mobile-first indexing can change ranking if a website produces different content to desktop and mobile users since the desktop content won’t be indexed therefore SEO efforts may not achieve the same ranking.

Mobile-first indexing has been optional, configured through the Google Search Console. Google checks if your website is ready to change to mobile-first indexing, then recommends you to change if it is ready.

Mobile-friendly, however, is different from mobile-first indexing and is definitely a ranking factor for SEO.

Mobile-Friendly vs Mobile-First

Indexing and ranking have traditionally been based on the desktop view of a website, crawled and indexed by the desktop version of the Google bot. Recognising the change to mobile, Google started boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly websites in 2015.

Mobile-friendly gave a boost to ranking but continued to use desktop content to index the website. In 2018, Google started rolling out mobile-first indexing, a few months after beginning trials in December 2017.

As Google progresses towards a mobile-first priority for websites, the more important it becomes to ensure your website, and SEO for the website caters for mobile users.

What do I need to do?

If your website is not friendly for mobile users, then you should update or replace your website as soon as possible, since mobile-friendly is a significant factor for ranking on search engines.

If you have different versions of your website for mobile and desktop users, check the content for the two versions are the same so the indexing is accurate for both. If so, then ranking won’t be affected and there is no urgency to update or replace your website. SEO could be affected in the future as Google continues to head towards a mobile-first focus for all websites.

Changing to a responsive design website that displays the same content will help reduce maintenance and risk of different content for the different versions.

If your website is already mobile-friendly using responsive design with the same content for the desktop version and mobile version, then your website is not likely to be affected by mobile-first indexing.

If you are unsure if your website is mobile-friendly and ready for mobile-first indexing, or you want to check if your website’s SEO can be improved, contact Rubidyn to see if our WordPress Hosting Packages can assist you in updating your website for the mobile-first world.