What Mobile First Indexing Means for the Future of Google Searches

January 02, 2017

Up until now, Google has used the desktop version of web pages to deliver up search results, even if searches are made on a mobile device. If you own or manage a website, then you may already know that mobile pages sometimes differ from the desktop version. In an effort to make the pages more readable and user-friendly, it’s not uncommon for mobile pages to be shorter and more concise.

That means the pages that are used to determine search results aren’t necessarily what’s seen on a mobile device. This poses a unique issue for Google since the majority of searches are now done on mobile devices. In an effort to supply the most accurate search results, Google recently announced they are beginning to implement mobile first indexing.

What does this mean and how could it affect your SEO? Let’s find out!

Mobile Page Indexing Will Be a Major Shift for Some Sites

First off, it should be noted there is still only a single indexing system for websites and apps. However, Google is making moves to predominantly use the mobile version of a site’s content to:

  • Rank pages from that site
  • Understand structured data
  • Show snippets from those pages in the results

This is a clear sign that mobile has overtaken desktop in terms of search, and it’s a major shift in indexing. There’s no word yet on when the change will take effect on a large scale, but for now Google is experimenting to figure out the best way of indexing mobile pages first.

Regardless of how things pan out on Google’s end, the repercussions are clear for websites. Your mobile content just got a lot more important.

Responsive Designs Are Ahead of the Game

For the last few years we’ve recommended that clients use a responsive design because it creates a better user experience. Responsive web designs are ones that deliver the same HTML code no matter what computer is used, be it a desktop or mobile device. The adaptable design automatically adjusts to fit the format of the screen so that a single design can work with a variety of viewing environments.

Sites that are already using a responsive design have little to worry about. Your content is the same across all platforms, which means the content that Google currently uses for indexing will be the same during mobile first indexes.

YAY! You’re already set.

Websites that use site configuration aren’t so lucky. Site configuration means that there’s unique HTML markup for the desktop version of the website and the mobile version. These are the types of sites that are most likely to have different content depending on the version.

If this is the setup you currently use it’s best to start making changes now while Google is in the early phases of testing mobile first indexing. The primary updates to focus on are creating the same structured markup for the desktop and mobile versions of your site and ensuring Googlebot can access your mobile site.

Need help getting the technical framework ready so Google can index the on-page content of your mobile site? When you work with SearchRPM you’re working with a team that stays on top of the latest search technology. We’re able to help clients future-proof their sites and SEO efforts by thoughtfully analyzing trends and staying up-to-date on the newest Google algorithm changes.

It all starts with a FREE SEO Report - get yours today!

By Michael Ramirez
SearchRPM Founder
Michael Ramirez

Michael Ramirez is the Founder of SearchRPM, an Austin, TX based search marketing company that’s well-versed in Search Engine Optimization best practices. You can follow Michael Ramirez on Twitter @openmic0323 or on Google+ to see what he’s up to next.