Mobile-first indexing is currently rolling out across sites globally, which means Google is gradually showing the mobile version of web pages ahead of their desktop counterparts. Mobile traffic for Google Search overtook desktop a few years ago now and the search giant is shifting priority to accommodate for this trend.
However, there still seems to be a lot of confusion about what mobile-first indexing is, where it begins and where it ends in terms of SEO. So Google has taken to Twitter to try and clear up some of the confusion – and we thought it would be a good idea to summarise this points it has made so far, plus add a few extra points ourselves.
Here’s what Google says people are most confused about
Last week, Google took to Twitter to clear up some of the confusion surrounding mobile-first indexing and you can take a look at the full thread by clicking the embedded Tweet below.
We’ve seen great presentations & posts on mobile-first indexing, it’s awesome to see all the details (thanks, @aleyda @jenstar @alexisksanders @dawnieando @badams + others)! There are only a few things we’ve sometimes seen confusion about, so we thought we’d clarify them.
— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) June 14, 2018
Google addressed seven key issues webmasters seem to be getting confused about with mobile-first indexing. Here’s what the search giant had to say:
- URLs in search: With Mobile-first indexing, we index the mobile version. When we recognize separate mobile URLs, we’ll show the mobile URL to mobile users, and the desktop URL to desktop users – the indexed content will be the mobile version in both cases.
- Crawled counts: The total number of crawled URLs/day generally won’t change, but the balance will shift from mostly-desktop to mostly-mobile crawls. During a switch-over to mobile-first indexing we may temporarily crawl more as we reindex everything.
- Cached page: Unfortunately, it looks like we’re currently still not showing a cached page for many mobile-first indexed sites. This is a bug, not by design, and should get resolved over time. It’s just the UI, it doesn’t affect crawling, indexing, or ranking.
- Speed and mobile-first indexing: The mobile speed update in July is independent of mobile-first indexing. Fast sites are awesome for users, especially on mobile, since devices & connections there tend to be slower than with desktops.
- Mobile website UIs: Using “hamburger-menus” and “accordions” on mobile websites is fine.
- On requirements: Neither mobile-friendliness nor a mobile-responsive layout are requirements for mobile-first indexing. Pages without mobile versions still work on mobile, and are usable for indexing. That said, it’s about time to move from desktop-only and embrace mobile.
- On ranking: The mobile-first index doesn’t change anything for ranking other than that the mobile content is used. While mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor on mobile, being in the mobile-first index is not.
In the same thread, Google also linked to its documentation on mobile-first indexing for additional information. It also asked followers to ask any questions they have so it might be a good idea to follow and keep an eye on this threat if you’re still not fully comfortable with mobile-first indexing.
— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) June 14, 2018
A quick summary of everything you need to know about mobile-first indexing
It’s always nice to see Google reaching out to webmasters with advice about a major change but we still feel think there are going to be a lot of people who are unclear about what they actually need to do in a practical sense.
So here’s a quick summary of everything you need to know about mobile-first indexing.
What is mobile-first indexing?
Until recently, Google has used the desktop version of a page’s content to crawl, index and rank everything. The problem is, this can cause certain issues for mobile users (which are now the majority of Google users) when mobile pages are significantly different from desktop versions. This is what Google is addressing with mobile-first indexing and all it’s really doing is using the mobile version of content to crawl, index and rank pages.
Will this affect my search ranking?
There might be some fluctuation caused by the shift to mobile-first indexing due to differences in the content Google is using but there’s no direct change to how Google is actually ranking content. As Google has already told us:
“Mobile-first indexing is about how we gather content, not about how content is ranked. Content gathered by mobile-first indexing has no ranking advantage over mobile content that’s not yet gathered this way or desktop content.”
If you have separate mobile and desktop versions of pages and the content is significantly different, you might see some changes in your ranking. It’s also possible you’ll notice minor changes if pages around yours in the SERPs rise or fall, but these kind of fluctuations can occur on a day-by-day basis anyway.
What if I don’t have separate mobile and desktop pages?
If you don’t have separate mobile and desktop pages, then you don’t need to worry about mobile-first indexing at all. For example, if you have a responsive website and deliver the same content to users across different devices, you won’t be affected by the change – expect the small chance of ranking changes around as, as mentioned in the previous point.
Do we need to change anything?
If you’ve got separate mobile and desktop pages anywhere on your site, then you’ll need to make sure your URLs and canonical tags are set up correctly. It’s hard to imagine you won’t have these in order if you’re running mobile and desktop pages but now is the time to make sure everything is as it should be.
Follow Google’s best practices for mobile-first indexing if you have any doubts.
What you won’t need to do for mobile-first indexing is optimise the mobile experience of your site in any way. Yes, it’s always worth trying to improve performance but mobile-first indexing isn’t related to mobile-friendliness or the mobile page speed update coming in July.
If you have any remaining doubts about what mobile-first indexing means for your website and whether you need to take action, feel free to speak to our SEO team who are always ready to help you out with optimising your site and content for the best performance in search.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>We've seen great presentations & posts on mobile-first indexing, it's awesome to see all the details (thanks, <a href=”https://twitter.com/aleyda?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@aleyda</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/jenstar?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@jenstar</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/AlexisKSanders?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@alexisksanders</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/dawnieando?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@dawnieando</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/badams?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@badams</a> + others)! There are only a few things we've sometimes seen confusion about, so we thought we'd clarify them.</p>— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) <a href=”https://twitter.com/googlewmc/status/1007235817792790528?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>June 14, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>In case you're curious, our docs on mobile-first indexing are at <a href=”https://t.co/gQaVwzCV48″>https://t.co/gQaVwzCV48</a> , <a href=”https://t.co/1mglj5U5ch”>https://t.co/1mglj5U5ch</a> , <a href=”https://t.co/yo4mGQZkqh”>https://t.co/yo4mGQZkqh</a> , and <a href=”https://t.co/hDZcbCTjVj”>https://t.co/hDZcbCTjVj</a> for mobile sites in general.</p>— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) <a href=”https://twitter.com/googlewmc/status/1007235832107945985?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>June 14, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>