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Confused about Google’s “Mobile-First Indexing”?

Google’s “Mobile-First Indexing” – What Does It Mean?

by Dawn Hoffman, VP of Digital Marketing at Wanashaker

You may have recently received an email from the Google Search Console Team notifying you that “mobile-first indexing” has been enabled for your website. And you might be sitting there thinking… Huh? What exactly does that mean, and how will it affect my website and ranking?

So, tell me, Ms. SEO Wiz…what is “mobile-first indexing”?

We’ve all heard that Google has been shifting their algorithm to favor sites that are mobile-friendly, and mobile-first indexing is in step with that initiative. In the past, a business often created two versions of its company site – one for viewing on a desktop, and one for viewing on smaller screens, or mobile devices. When it came time to index and rank sites, Google would use the desktop version to get the information it needed. But now, with mobile-first at the forefront, the shift to indexing mobile sites first is on.

But what if my website isn’t mobile-friendly?

If Google doesn’t find a mobile-friendly site, it will still include the desktop version in the index. However, the lack of a mobile-friendly site could negatively impact the website ranking for both mobile and desktop users. This means, if your competitors have built their sites with mobile in mind, you could find yourself falling behind… Fast.

How can I tell if my site is “mobile-friendly”?

The easiest way to check is to bring up your website on your phone. If you can’t easily read the information, and you have to zoom in and scroll around to be able to make out the words, you do not have a mobile-friendly site. The content should be easily to read, and the site should be easy to navigate using only your thumb.

You can also plug in your web address on Quirktools and view your site as different screen sizes to see how it responds (which is highly recommended if you are building a new site, BTW).

My website looks good on both desktop and mobile. Is there anything else I need to do in response to the “mobile-first indexing” email?

Nope! Google recognizes that your mobile and desktop versions are compatible, and will consider the mobile version of your website as the primary version from this point on.

Great! So what else can I do to help with my website ranking?

Although Google doesn’t provide a comprehensive checklist, there are 3 basic items you can check first to assure your site is structured properly, which will help with website ranking.

    1. Page Speed – Although there are a number of sites that test page speed, Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a good place to start to get an idea of how your site is performing, and tells you what steps you should consider in order to make sure your site is working smoothly.

      A few examples of suggestions are usually:

      Image size – Images should be optimized for web, which means getting the file size down as low as possible without affecting the quality of the image. The larger the image size, the longer it takes to load on your site. The longer it takes to load, the higher chance Google will ding you because your pages are slow-loading.

      Redirects – Google frowns when visitors to your site get redirected to a different page than what they were initially expecting. This difference in user expectation fails Google’s criteria for providing visitors with a good experience. If a person clicks on a link to your site that says it features funny cat videos, but you instead automatically send them to a page that talks about climate change… wrong answer! And Google will duly note this discrepancy when it considers your rankings.

      Server response time – Sometimes, it’s not your site, but your hosting provider that’s slowing you down. Make sure to do a bit of research and read reviews before choosing or switching hosting providers. Depending on the platform your site is built with, or the size of your site, some hosting providers are better than others for what you need.

    2. Content – Is your site useful? Because usefulness is really what Google’s ranking system comes down to. If your site is lacking in the content department, neither Google nor visitors will deem the site worth their time…which means, your site won’t be easily found in searches. Make sure each page uses keywords that are important to the page topic, and don’t mince words. Although the suggested word count has changed over time, you should have a minimum of 250-300 words per page. But they shouldn’t be any old words – make sure you focus on quality of content over quantity of words.
    3. Metadata – Your page titles and meta descriptions should accurately describe the information that can be found on each page, and they should include important keywords. And most definitely, make sure the information is unique for each page!


Uh-oh. My site isn’t mobile-friendly. What should I do?

Even though Google is slowly rolling out this change, you shouldn’t wait to give your customers the best experience ever when they come to your site. A poorly designed site not only hurts website ranking, but can turn potential customers away, too. Updating your website should be on your list of priorities if it fails the mobile-first test.

Don’t feel comfortable redoing your own site? We can help! Contact us today to find out how Wanashaker can get you back in the game with a fresh, new website design that’s both mobile- and user-friendly.