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Google Rolls Out Mobile-First Indexing: What it Means and Steps to Take

After a year and a half of testing, experimentation, and tweaking, Google officially announced it will begin migrating websites that follow mobile-first indexing best practices. The announcement shouldn’t come as a shock, since Google has been preparing users and the world for this shift since 2016. Speaking of 2016, that was also the year mobile traffic officially eclipsed desktop traffic (though varying sources suggest this took place in 2015). So, what does Google’s algorithm update mean for your business? Make no mistake: Google’s mobile-first indexing algorithm update is a game-changer, and one your team shouldn’t take lightly. While that’s true, it’s also not time to panic.

Read on to learn:

  • A brief breakdown of Google’s algorithm update, and what it means for businesses
  • 3 steps to ensure your website doesn’t get left behind in a mobile-first indexing world

What Does Google’s Algorithm Update Mean for My Business/SEO Strategy?

Prior to the official update, Google prioritized the desktop version of a page’s content over the mobile version. Now, it’s quite the opposite, given the continual shift of queries performed via mobile. Google will use the mobile version of a website to index and rank content to better serve user’s search intent.

Does this mean Google now has a separate mobile and desktop index in which it serves users results? No, Google still uses one single index, even after the mobile-first algorithm update. Keep in mind, desktop content can still rank above content on a mobile device if it better serves the user’s search query. Google will continue refining its algorithm to solve the problems of users, which means at times that answer is best solved with longform content. Other times, it’s succinct, short form content. Make these considerations while your team adjusts to mobile-first indexing:

  • Which device will the greatest number of your customers be accessing your site from? (desktop, mobile, tablet)
  • What type of content is most relevant to your customers? Do you know what content your customers prefer?
  • What time of day do users typically access your site? (this will impact the device they’re using during that time and will help your business cater its content to their queries)

Brass tacks: If your business doesn’t have a mobile version of its website, it’s missing traffic and conversion opportunities.

3 Steps to Take After Google’s Mobile-First Algorithm Update

Step 1: Responsive design is a MUST: First, if your business hasn’t implemented responsive web design, expect to see a decrease in traffic compared to your competition that has enabled responsive design. One of the reasons Google instituted this algorithm update was to prevent users from having issues viewing content, regardless of the device the content is being viewed on.

Responsive design cuts down on this issue, by serving users content that can be viewed and understood on all devices (desktop, phone, tablet) by seamlessly adjusting for the screen size.

If your business hasn’t tackled making its website mobile responsive yet, there’s work to do. If your business has that box checked off, read step two.

Step 2: Create mobile-friendly content: Does your website have different content, based on whether the user is visiting you via desktop or on mobile? If your mobile site’s content is thin and less substantial than the content on its desktop site, Google will prioritize the content on mobile.

Webmasters should create content with a mobile user in mind, without sacrificing the quality of the content itself. This equates to taking user reading behavior on phones into account. Here’s some mobile best practices to keep in mind as your team makes adjustments:

  • incorporate short, punchy headlines
  • optimize images and video
  • make sure content is legible on mobile, so users don’t have to zoom in and out to read your content

Having responsive design will help with many of these elements, but have your webmaster take a deeper dive, to not miss mobile-first indexing opportunities.

Step 3: Check Google Search Console to see if your site has already made the migration: One of the easiest ways to see if Google’s algorithm update has impacted your site is to simply log into Google Search Console. If a Googlebot has already been sent to your website, you’ll receive a notification that looks like this:

Even if your site didn’t receive a notification, log into Search Console and continue monitoring site activity to get a better handle on how the mobile-first index might be impacting you locally.

What’s Next: Mobilegeddon 3.0? Don’t Wait to See

Whenever there is an announcement of a Google algorithm update, it’s met with a fair bit of tin foil hat theorizing, anticipation, and sometimes dread. But it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. Within Google’s Official Webmaster Blog , Google states:

“Mobile-first indexing is about how we gather content, not about how content is ranked.”

Google is continuing the shift toward a mobile-first world, and businesses need to take notice, make adjustments and optimize if they haven’t already to stay relevant to users. Ultimately, it’s user behavior and the changing nature of how we yearn to have our problems solved that invokes Google to update its algorithm.

We’ll continue monitoring Google’s algorithm update on our end and will send updates when applicable. But if you have a question about mobile-first indexing, don’t hesitate to contact our team. We’ll be happy to help.

About the Author

BrettBenko

Brett Benko

Senior Digital Solutions Specialist

Brett Benko is a digital solutions specialist. He has a knack for client empathy and constantly challenges himself to derive insight while obtaining tangible results. He graduated from Kent State University in 2012. He remains active in academia, having recently served on selection committees and charitable boards. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, writing fiction and poetry, traveling, and unabashedly sings karaoke (to mixed reactions) with friends.

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