Google’s Mobile First index: what do you need to know?

people looking at mobile phones

Google’s Mobile First makes page speed critical to your business

At the end of March, Google announced it is making the transition to a ‘Mobile First’ index for its search results – so what does that mean for your business and especially for your search engine optimisation?

There are a few important factors to understand, including what Google actually means when it refers to a ‘Mobile First’ search index.

What this means is that, although there is only one overall Google Search index, historically the version of websites that were ‘seen’ by the Googlebot were the desktop version.

In future this will change, so that the Googlebot will look first for the mobile version of your site, and index your website based on that.

Why does Mobile First make a difference?

There are a few different ways to optimise a website for mobile SEO. You can have a basic, fast-loading template even on desktop devices; you can refer visitors to a completely separate mobile version of your website or you can have a fully ‘responsive’ website that scales down to smaller screens.

Some websites aren’t designed to be viewed on mobile devices at all – and these have already lost out in the past from Google’s trend towards ranking mobile-friendly sites higher in its search results.

You might not be certain of what you’ve already got, or of the best options to make sure you’re not adversely affected by this new change in how Google view websites when indexing them.

But all is not lost – remember the O in SEO stands for ‘optimisation’. It’s about making changes, tweaks and improvements that help your website to hold its own in an ever-changing search landscape, and this is an opportunity to do just that.

Best practice for Mobile First

Mobile First indexing will directly affect you if your website:

  • Refers visitors to a separate mobile site/template rather than a responsive page
  • Serves different content to mobile device users without showing them a different URL
  • Combines AMP (accelerated mobile pages) and non-AMP versions of the same page

If your website only has a desktop template, Mobile First in principle will not affect you, because Google can only index you based on your desktop content – but you are probably already missing out on SEO value.

As Google explain on their Webmaster Central Blog: “We do evaluate all content in our index – whether it is desktop or mobile – to determine how mobile-friendly it is. Since 2015, this measure can help mobile-friendly content perform better for those who are searching on mobile.

“Related, we recently announced that beginning in July 2018, content that is slow-loading may perform less well for both desktop and mobile searchers.”

Use a single responsive template that shows the same primary content on mobile and desktop devices alike

That means if you have not done so already, now is the time to make sure you have a mobile template in place for your site or, even better, a single responsive template that shows the same primary content on mobile and desktop devices alike.

Help with SEO for Google Mobile First

So to recap, if you want your website to perform well in Google Mobile First SEO terms, you should consider:

  • A fully mobile responsive website template across both mobile and desktop devices
  • Make sure all content visible to desktop users is also visible when your site is viewed on mobile
  • Upgrade older websites that are still desktop-only or that send users to a separate mobile template
  • Check page load speeds and optimise to remove or improve elements that slow down loading times
  • Continue to produce relevant, high-quality content, which boosts SEO regardless of Mobile First

For specific help with your website or search engine optimisation, contact The Content Marketing Team. We can help you to make sure your site is mobile-friendly and filled with great-quality content that will rank well for Google SEO across all platforms and devices.

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