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SEO News: What Google’s Mobile-First Indexing Means for You

Matt Brady
#Mobile, #Responsive Design, #SEO
Published on November 11, 2016

We look at why Google is moving to a mobile-first version of their search index and how this will affect your website.

As the portal that much of the world’s population uses to find information online, Google holds an incredibly important position in the online world. That means that whenever they make a change or update to their processes, everyone sits up and takes notice. Today, we’re looking at the latest Google news that affects the world of search engine optimization (SEO): the implementation of mobile-first indexing.

The Ever-Increasing Importance of Mobile

The number of people who use mobile devices to access websites has grown by leaps and bounds over the last several years; in fact, a recent study showed that worldwide internet usage on mobile and tablet devices surpassed that of desktop computers for the first time in October 2016. In light of this ongoing shift, Google has not only worked to improve their own products and services for mobile users, but they have encouraged website owners to do likewise.

How have they done so? By including mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal for search results, Google has ensured that sites which provide a good experience for mobile users will rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). They’ve also provided tools to help site owners test whether their site is mobile-friendly and guides on how to implement mobile-friendliness. And they’ve continued to make updates to encourage sites to provide a good mobile experience, such as penalizing sites which use intrusive pop-up ads.

Making Google’s Index Mobile-First

The latest and clearest indication that Google recognizes the importance of mobile is their recent announcement that they will be moving towards a mobile-first search index. Google’s search index is their record of the websites that they are able to crawl across the entire web, and when someone searches for information on Google, the results displayed are pulled from this index.

By moving to a mobile-first version of the index, Google will primarily be using the mobile version of a site’s content when determining that site’s ranking in search results. The index will also use the mobile version of a site when examining structured data and when determining which rich snippets to display on SERPs.

What Does This Mean For Me?

This change demonstrates that it is more important than ever to ensure that your website provides a good experience for mobile users. If you’ve already implemented responsive web design (RWD), you shouldn’t have anything to worry about, since your site already automatically adapts to provide the best experience for users no matter what device they are using.

However, if you don’t have a mobile website, or if you have separate desktop and mobile sites, you’ll probably want to make some changes to ensure that your search rankings aren’t negatively affected. Google recommends using their Structured Data Testing Tool to ensure that structured data markup is correct for both desktop and mobile versions of your site, as well as testing your site’s robots.txt file to ensure that Google is able to crawl the mobile version of your site.

If you haven’t yet made sure that your site is configured for mobile, now is the time to do so. Sites that aren’t mobile-friendly will still be discoverable, but since mobile-friendly sites will be prioritized more and more, it’s likely that your site will fall in search rankings, especially for people searching on mobile devices.

If you’re looking to implement responsive design to provide the best possible experience for your site’s users across any devices they might use, we can help! You can get started by scheduling a free mobile review today. If you have any other questions about responsive design or mobile-friendliness, please contact us. We look forward to helping you improve your digital strategy!