What Mobile First Indexing Means for You – The Facts Explained

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Aarzu Khan
A full-time data scientists and a part-time industry analyst; still learning power of effective presentation and firm believer of the thought "Numbers are always magical". Love to be in the network of people who 'know' how to respect their time and keep others engaged in meaningful activities.

There has been a definite rise in the importance given to mobile web presence over recent years. It’s easy to see why. You only have to take a look at industry data, and you can see that use of mobile devices to browse the Internet has now overtaken use of desktop devices. This year, mobile is most definitely taking centre stage, with the much awaited mobile first index becoming a reality.

Google first started recognising the importance of mobile in web search, and user experience, back in 2015. This was when it announced changes to its algorithm that led to a differentiation between mobile friendly websites and those that were not mobile friendly. The event became known as Mobilegeddon. Now Google is taking things one step further with the introduction of the mobile first index.

What does mobile first indexing mean?

When Google discovers a web page, it stores information about it in its databases. This information is then used to create rankings when a search is made. Traditionally, the information, known as an index, has been taken from the desktop version of a website. The problem with this is that, although the content of mobile web pages is taken into account during the ranking process, it’s not used to create the index. Weighting is therefore towards desktop.

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Given that more people now use mobile devices to complete web searches, it’s been necessary for this to change. This is where mobile first indexing comes in. When it becomes a reality, likely to be in late 2017, the mobile first index will be created using the mobile version of a website, not the desktop. So, what does this mean for you?

What can you expect from mobile first indexing?

The answer to this question is going to depend on what type of web presence you already have. The most impact is going to be felt by those businesses that have separate desktop and mobile websites. If this applies to your business then you may lose out on search rankings if you have different content on the two sites. For instance, if you have rel=alternate and canonical tags setup Google may only actually see what is on your mobile site when it crawls the web. Obviously, this is not a good thing for you, and you may want to think about adopting responsive web design which is the recommendation from Google.

Most modern web design professionals, such as Quikclicks make use of responsive web design. If you use responsive web design then Google should be able to see exactly the same thing for your mobile presence as it did for your desktop content. That is not to say, you should still take action to ensure your content is optimised for mobile as much as it can be. This involves thinking about mobile first and making sure that the font you use can easily be read using a mobile device and that links can be accessed easily, using a touchscreen.

If you do not have a mobile web presence at all then Google will still be able to see your desktop content. In this respect, mobile first indexing should have no effect. That being said, if you do not have a mobile web presence you risk losing out on a substantial potential customer base.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the mobile first index. You should be able to recognise what it means for you, and how well prepared you are.

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