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Does my website need Mobile-First Indexing?

What exactly is mobile-first indexing and does my website need mobile-first indexing? Those are two questions that have been popping up more often lately and as a top web development company we wanted to share our thoughts on the matter to provide some clarity about exactly what these terms mean for the average business owner.

First, let’s start by mentioning that this is nothing to panic about. Mobile-first indexing is not something that is currently in play on a large scale so currently there is minimal impact, if even that to concern yourself with.

However forewarned is forearmed so let’s dive right in and learn about Google’s newest addition to their idea of a more mobile-friendly web.

What exactly is it?

Before the mobile web became a thing, Google and other search engines indexed your site based on the standard desktop version and all the content that it contained. It was fairly straightforward. When mobile only websites came onto the scene (sites such as mobi/m./etc) nothing changed the indexing process.

When you added new content to your site, it was indexed based on the desktop version. Your overall rankings were based on the overall content and experience on the desktop level.

The change that Google will eventually make has to do with how they will index new sites and existing sites. The mobile version of your website will be where Google starts for what they include in their index and that combined with the mobile experience will be the starting point for your rankings.

It is important to understand that this is a “mobile-first” indexing method and not “mobile-only” indexing. If you don’t have a mobile only or mobile friendly website you aren’t suddenly going to be excluded. However you could suffer a drop in rankings if either your site does not provide a good mobile-friendly experience while competitors do and would then move ahead of you.

Also worth noting is that the mobile version of your website will be considered the primary version while the desktop version suddenly becomes the sidecar. For many people this will not be an issue; however the key take away from that concept is that Google is thinking about websites from a mobile view first with desktop versions being the alternate option which is a fundamental switch from just a few years ago.

Do I need to change anything on my website?

Depending on how your website is coded, you might not need to make any changes to the site before mobile-first indexing goes into full effect. According to Google’s blog on the topic, sites that are either responsive in design or uses identical desktop and mobile versions will not need to make any adjustments.

However, with that being said you should still make sure your website is following mobile best practices.

For example, if you have a responsive website, since it will be indexed based on how it looks to the Smartphone Googlebot.

For a responsive site you should prioritize both mobile page speed and load times and then make sure all of your elements are optimized properly. It is also important to understand that your site will be viewed from the mobile responsive view which means collapsed and hidden content will be viewed differently.

Businesses that utilize a separate mobile site should do a little more review as you want to ensure that all of your best content exists on your mobile version and can be crawled and indexed. On the technical side you should review structured data, metadata, and sitemaps are all accessible and equivalent on both versions. Lastly if your mobile site uses a separate host you want to verify that they can handle the increased crawl rate that will take place.

When will this become a factor?

Currently there is not a firm date for when Google will have an index that is truly mobile-first. They have been working on it since 2016 and have used a number of sites as guinea pigs.

In a post last month in their webmaster blog, Google stated that they are being very cautious with rolling this out which means it could be another year or two before it comes into play. The safest approach is to assume that it could be ready late this year.

If you don’t have a responsive site or a mobile version of your site there is still not a reason for mass panic. Most likely if you have not gotten on board with the mobile push it is because your website is either not a focal point of your business or customers do not connect often if at all via a mobile device.

In that case your overall rankings may be impacted as your site will reflect a worse user experience compared to other sites that are mobile ready.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that your site does not need mobile first indexing. That is something that Google is working on whether you like it or not. What you do need to be aware of is how this eventuality will impact you. For those businesses with a responsive site there is little to be concerned about. Those with both mobile and desktop sites will have more steps to take to ensure they will retain rankings, while those without either type of site are in a different boat and should strongly consider creating a responsive website not only for mobile-first indexing but also to cater to the growing mobile consumer base.

Be sure to check back every week for great new Lounge Lizard blog articles.

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