Google's Mobile First Index SEO update
Google - September 10, 2018

What is Google’s Mobile First Index SEO update?

So, as you probably know, the internet usage on mobile devices is now exceeding the internet usage by desktop devices with just about every measure in terms of minutes, in terms of page views, in terms of pretty much everything. As you probably also know Google continues to use its leverage to try and drive webmasters and website designers towards making more mobile-friendly websites.

A couple of years ago or two and a half years ago in April of 2015, Google announced something called the mobile-friendly update and this was basically giving a little bit of a rankings boost to any sites that were mobile-friendly and they defined as things like that it fits on a mobile device screen; that the fonts are big enough to read; that you don’t have to scroll horizontally; that the links were big enough to touch with a finger –those kinds of things. Well, about a year ago they announced their next phase of trying to drive people towards mobile optimization, and this was called the Mobile-First Index, and what this means is that your site will now be ranked based on the content that’s on the mobile version of the site not on the desktop version of the site.

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When Google’s indexing your site it’s going to come in as if it was a mobile device and look at the content in that way and rank you based on that. They started the roll out this year on an incremental basis starting with those sites that are highly mobile optimized all ready to do some testing with that. But they’ve indicated that they’re going to accelerate that roll-out in 2018 so more and more of their index and their rankings will be generated off of the mobile version of websites.

So what does this mean for your website?

If your website is already responsive meaning that it automatically adjusts to the size of the screen and the content is largely the same on the responsive version on the mobile version as it is on the desktop you will probably be fine. It’s more for the people that I will call;the head-in-the-sands approach where they’re saying I don’t want to deal with mobile until I absolutely have to and they don’t have any form of mobile site — it’s really time to deal with that and we really recommend going in the responsive route for those sites where they have a mobile site, but it’s a separate site you know like sometimes it’s m. and your URL or something like that.

You need to look at is the content on that mobile site largely the same as the content on the desktop site is it is rich and well optimized from an SEO standpoint as your desktop site one of the problems that often those sites have with indexing for mobile is that usually when links are made by other websites into your site they’ll link to your desktop pages and so if your site starts getting ranked on its mobile site, it’s separate mobile site, you may lose some of the authority provided by that linking profile.

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So we really recommend if you have a separate site you also consider moving it to a responsive site. This has a couple of implications from a optimizations and point one is that your SEO work, your search engine optimization, really needs to focus on what we’ll call mobile-first SEO, meaning that you are really focused on optimizing your mobile site for visibility in the search engines instead of your desktop as was traditionally done.

The other thing is that from a user experience and usability standpoint you really need to look at how you’re going to get the depth of content from your desktop site in your mobile site in a way that’s highly usable. You’re going to need that richness and depth of content on your mobile site to be able to make it rank as well, and so you need to use approaches like expandable content where you show and hide different parts of the content as the user clicks on things like tabs or accordions, things that expand the content based on the user’s interest in it.

The good news is that it’s been a slow roll-out today with Google focusing mostly on sites that are highly optimized already, and they’ve said that they’re going to publish blogs about this giving webmasters some instruction and that there’ll be some warning about when it will roll out but we believe it’s going to largely happen in the year 2018, so it’s time to start thinking about this. The thing I would say is in summary don’t panic about this just start to start to get prepared and make sure that your site your mobile site is well optimized, ideally responsive, and you start thinking about things like mobile first SEO and mobile usability.