What is Google’s mobile-first index? How search is going mobile

By Woven Agency, Monday September 3, 2018

Mobile-first index? Google index? What’s all this, then?

Well, let’s start at the beginning by nailing down what Google Index is. Essentially, it’s a huge database that stores the details of every web page Google has analysed – an analysis done through a process called ‘crawling’. So, when you search Google you’re not searching the internet, you’re searching their database. And if your site hasn’t been crawled then it isn’t on Google’s index and you won’t feature on their search engine results. Not good.

Google act pretty quickly, however, and typically add new pages to their index within a few days of them going live. And you can help the process – as well as your overall SEO ranking – by posting unique, well-produced, and spam-free content.

From desktop to mobile

Historically, Google’s crawling has focused on analysing data from desktop sites to evaluate the relevance of a page’s content to the user. But in 2017, the number of searches made via mobile devices overtook those made from desktops, and now nearly 60% of searches are mobile. This was a trend Google foresaw a few years back and in 2016 they they announced that mobile-first indexing was on the way.

And, now, it’s arrived.

What does Google’s mobile-first index mean for you?

The advent of mobile-first indexing means Google will crawl responsive web pages more frequently with a mobile user agent as opposed to a desktop one, and so ensuring your website is mobile-optimised has never been more important. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind as Google search goes mobile-first.

Your content

You must ensure the content for which you want to rank features on your mobile site. If it’s not, you will see an adverse impact on the number of users visiting your site. So, if you have a lot of information on your desktop site that is trimmed down for mobile users, ensure you’re not cutting out anything that’s crucial to your ranking/SEO score.

And this isn’t just about the words on your web pages, it’s ensuring your metadata, images, and alt attributes for any differing content (i.e. content that’s on your mobile site but not on your desktop one) is mobile-optimised, as well the overall user experience.

Your internal linking

As mobile pages are being prioritised for crawling, so too is mobile linking. Which means you should ensure that anything you’re linking to internally features on your mobile-optimised site so that you’re not leaving any unlinked, ‘orphaned’ pages that won’t be so easy to find via search. To ensure your mobile configuration is spot-on you can run a crawl with a mobile user agent.

Your page speed

The speed at which your site loads has long had an impact on your SEO ranking, and now this will be scored against the speed at which your mobile website loads, with the slowest-loading sites being penalised. Unsure of your website’s loading speed? Find out with Google’s PageSpeed tool.

So, that’s your quick need-to-know overview on Google’s mobile-first indexing. For more details, we recommend giving Deep Crawl’s guide a scroll through. And if you need help making the most of your mobile website, get in touch – we’ll get our web development wizards right on it.