Google and Mobile-First Indexing: What You Need to Know

The majority of Google searchers are using mobile devices today, and until recently, Google’s search engine has prioritized the desktop version of a web page’s content over the mobile version when ranking on Google results pages.

The Move to Mobile-First Indexing

Even though most people today are searching for what they need on Google via a mobile device, the search engine’s ranking systems still observed the desktop version of a page’s content to analyze its user relevance. Where this causes problems is when the mobile page contains reduced content compared to the desktop variant – a scenario caused by Google’s algorithms failing to evaluate the actual page that is viewed by a mobile searcher.
To make results more useful, Google has begun delving into mobile-first indexing; while the search index will soldier on as a single index of apps and websites, Google’s algorithms are looking to the future by primarily using the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site. This will help evaluate structured data and display snippets from those pages in Google results.

Consider This When Configuring

If your pages already boast a responsive design, like ActiveDEMAND landing pages,  you’re probably in good shape for the new indexing protocol. If you are looking at a site configuration wherein the markup and primary content are different across desktop and mobile, here are some things to consider:
  • Ensure to serve structured markup for both the mobile and desktop versions.
  • Avoid copious amounts of markup non-relevant to the specific information content of each document when adding structured data to a mobile site.
  • Take advantage of the robots.txt testing tool to confirm that your mobile variant is accessible to Googlebot.
  • Site owners who have only verified their desktop site in Google’s Search Console should add and verify the mobile version.
  • If you’re working only with a desktop site, Google will continue to index your desktop site as usual – even if a mobile user-agent is being used to view your site.

Functional Desktop Still Better Than Broken Mobile

If you are in the midst of building a mobile version of your website, remember a functional desktop-oriented variant is more beneficial than an incomplete or broken mobile version. Take it from us when we tell you it’s better to build up your mobile site characteristics and launch it once fully ready.

The Bottom Line

Although Google’s search algorithms and indexing is an ever-shifting plane, the mobile-first indexing is the first move in the company’s planned shift to looking primarily at mobile content rather than desktop when deciding how to rank results. With regard to SEO, this has really transitioned from being a technical skill to an art. Today’s SEO authors have to know and understand more than just code and ranking signals, they have to know how to use design to influence rankings.