5 things you need to know about mobile-first indexing

As you might know, Google is rolling out mobile-first indexing as we speak. But what does that mean for your ranking? Should you be worried? Should you do anything? Last week, Google explained a bit more about mobile-first indexing. In this post, I’ll talk you through five things you need to know about mobile-first indexing.

Mobile-first indexing

Last March, Google announced that they were going to start with mobile-first indexing. But what does that entail? It means that from now on, Google will base what it places in the index based on the mobile version of your site, whereas they used to index the desktop version of your site first. This switch is made because more and more searches come from a mobile device and to give those users a better experience, Google decided that it was time to prioritize mobile results. It is important to note that the mobile-first index is not a separate index, Google has only one index from which it serves the results.

1. Do not panic!

Of more and more sites the mobile version will be indexed. That does not mean that anything big is happening. In fact, it probably doesn’t do anything to your rankings. If Google indexes the mobile version of your site, you’ll get a notice in your Google Search Console. This means that Google will determine by the content available on your mobile site how you will rank — both on the desktop as well as on mobile. This sounds pretty big, but for most WordPress sites it’ll have minimal consequences. If you think about it, most WordPress sites have a responsive design. This means that both mobile and desktop display the same content. You’ll have nothing to worry about in this case.

If you have different websites for mobile and desktop and your mobile website has far less content – you do have something to worry about. 

2. Do a mobile friendliness test. Ranking without mobile is going to be hard…

You do not have to have a mobile site to be in the mobile-first indexing, as Google will index desktop sites as well. But, it’s going to be hard to rank if your site is not mobile friendly. So there’s work to do for all of you who have not have a mobile-friendly site yet.

So what do you need to do? Check out Google’s mobile friendliness test and check whether or not your site is mobile friendly. In our experience, this is a minimum requirement. If your site does not pass this test, your mobile version is bad.

3. Think about UX on mobile

A mobile website needs a different design than a desktop version to appeal to your audience. Your screen is tiny. Google explained last week that hamburger or accordion menus are perfectly fine to use. These kinds of menus make sense; they help a mobile user to browse through your website. Putting content behind a tab to make the mobile experience better is also totally fine.

Read more: 10 ways to improve mobile UX »

4. Write mobile-friendly

Reading from a screen is hard. And reading from a mobile screen is even harder than reading from a big screen. To attract a mobile audience, you’ll need to have mobile-friendly copy. This means short sentences and compact paragraphs. You need to make sure your font on your mobile site is large and clear enough, and you need to make sure to use enough whitespaces.

Keep reading: Copywriting for mobile »

5. Check out those mobile snippets

Is your audience mainly mobile? Do they come from the mobile search results to your page? Or does most of your organic traffic come from the desktop SERPs? Make sure to check this in your Google Analytics.

If your search traffic is mostly from mobile Search Result Pages, make sure to optimize your mobile snippet in our snippet preview.

Mobile snippet preivew

Conclusion on mobile-first indexing

Don’t panic about the mobile-first index Google is rolling out. If your website has a responsive design, your content will be similar on both desktop and mobile versions. If so, the mobile-first indexing will have little consequences for your ranking.

Do take some time to evaluate the mobile version of your website. Check out its mobile parity — are your desktop and mobile site equal? Is your design good enough? Or could you improve? Are the buttons large enough to tap? What about your content? Could you make your text more readable for a mobile audience? Making sure your website has a kick-ass mobile experience is something you need to get started on. This will make a difference in your rankings shortly.

Read on: How to improve your mobile site »


43 Responses to 5 things you need to know about mobile-first indexing

  1. Lynn
    Lynn  • 5 months ago

    Great article, Marieke. Lots of good nuggets here.
    I have a site that tests fine for Mobile-friendly, but has a yellow flag that says “Page loading issues”. When clicked, that points to a bunch of code from the theme, etc. I doubt there would be much most could do about it. Robots.txt should be allowing Google to see these pages as far as I can tell. Is it safe to ignor that?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Thanks Lynn… I think your theme probably will have some page loading issues. Nothing to do about that (unless you’re a theme developer)… I cannot say anything about the severity of the issue. But I would consider a different (and more mobile/seo friendly) theme in the future. No need to switch immediately, just something to keep in mind.

  2. Kalingadental
    Kalingadental  • 5 months ago

    Is Mobile Indexing help to boost rank in google serp?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      no, it will not…but you should have a mobile website that is really awesome in order to keep competing in those serps!

  3. Frank Krepel
    Frank Krepel  • 5 months ago

    Hi Marieke, I notice different rankings for mobile and desktop search after publishing new content. Mobile rankings seem to be indexed faster. Desktop can take up to a few weeks before being indexed. Do what is the difference in frequency and indexing new content?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Hi Frank! That’s interesting. In theory (at least that is what Google is saying) there should not be any difference though. I do not know how to explain your experiences.

  4. Smart
    Smart  • 5 months ago

    Take mobile friendliness seriously, you will only benefits from optimize the site in both desktop and mobile version
    I indeed like this write up , let me quickly check out mine

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      thanks!

  5. Greg - TraveltoTips
    Greg - TraveltoTips  • 5 months ago

    Thanks for the tips. What about AMP?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      You’re welcome! AMP is really important too. Google is focussing on that as well. We cannot say that AMP is a real ranking factor. Google has said it is not a ranking factor. But, you’re right, if one of your site is much faster than the other, that’ll improve the user experience and in time your ranking. And speed is a ranking factor.
      We also see AMP-sites getting a different treatment from Google. There are spots in the search results that seem to be solely reserved for AMP sites.

      We’ll have to wait and see how this will evolve!

  6. Surendra
    Surendra  • 5 months ago

    How to check Mobile Friendly Site Page .

  7. Mritunjay Yadav
    Mritunjay Yadav  • 5 months ago

    The new mobile-first indexing update will lead to increase in AMP version of pages.

  8. Presh Arthur
    Presh Arthur  • 5 months ago

    A nice sparkling information, it seems that nowadays google in most cases index mobile content than the desktop version which i notice but never knew much about it [was thinking that the content was just like a design + content]. Well thanks mate for putting more enlight about this.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      You’re welcome

  9. Mathukutty P. V.
    Mathukutty P. V.  • 5 months ago

    I am using Astra free theme which is responsive. But YouTube embedded videos size is not correct on my mobile, more height. When using Jetpack mobile theme, video size ok, but small fonts and also featured image not showing. I had checked AMP plugin earlier, but that also does not show featured image. Another problem is if revert to responsive search console shows /amp urls not found.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      I am afraid this is a little too complicated and specific for me to answer.

  10. Rohit
    Rohit  • 5 months ago

    well this is gonna help a lot of people like me who are beginners in this platform.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      I sure hope so! Good luck!

  11. Videos Engraçados
    Videos Engraçados  • 5 months ago

    Hi,
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
    AMP pages rank better than others?

    Ty in advance,
    Videos Engraçados

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      It is hard to say whether they really rank better. But… as AMP pages are a lot faster and speed is a ranking factor, I think in the end you’ll be able to rank higher with an AMP page.

  12. Marieke van de Rakt

    thanks!

  13. Adithya
    Adithya  • 5 months ago

    Good article for beginners. Definitely keeping these tips in mind when working on my own site.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Thank you!

  14. HardikTechie
    HardikTechie  • 5 months ago

    My visitors are mainly from mobile, so it is a better idea to go for subdomain: m.domain.com for better user experience?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      No, I would not recommend that. Responsive is always better!

  15. Ekodieta
    Ekodieta  • 5 months ago

    Good article for beginners. Definitely keeping these tips in mind when working on my own site.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Thank you!

  16. Ahmed
    Ahmed  • 5 months ago

    Yes it true, most of my traffic is from the mobile site. Thanks for the details would like to improve it.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      good luck!

  17. Matt Stephens
    Matt Stephens  • 5 months ago

    Most WordPress themes are mobile friendly. Also, serving AMP versions of a WordPress site is really easy. You can get that done in minutes.
    Whenever we hear of an update at Google, it usually sends a cold chill down the spine. This, however, will be made less scary to most people after reading your post.

    • Ahmed
      Ahmed  • 5 months ago

      LOL! So relatable.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      You’re right! No need for cold chills!

  18. Dreamit seo
    Dreamit seo  • 5 months ago

    As the mobile first indexing launch and majority traffics today come from mobile, it is true the mobile friendliness of a website is even more crucial than ever. Take mobile friendliness seriously, you will only benefits from optimize the site in both desktop and mobile version.

  19. shubhangi
    shubhangi  • 5 months ago

    yes google started taking Mobile-first indexing seriously so if your website is not responsive then it is big problem. superb article Marieke

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Thank you Shubhangi!

  20. PingSunday Table Tennis
    PingSunday Table Tennis  • 5 months ago

    For mobile, my site has 2 version:
    – Mobile friendly version (with a good responsive theme)
    – and AMP version.

    And the AMP version is used for every mobile visit. So basically, users will see the AMP version on mobile.

    So what to do?

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Both of your options are fine… AMP will probably be faster and give a better user experience. For ranking your content is most important. I assume the content is the same on both versions.

  21. Adam Bermingham
    Adam Bermingham  • 5 months ago

    How is Google treating AMP as a ranking factor? Or is it too early to have good data on this?

    I’ve implemented AMP on one of my sites, but not the other.

    Is it a case that load time is a ranking factor but not AMP per say? Improving bounce rate and time on page will improve ranking.

    Great Post, Adam.

    • Edkirui
      Edkirui  • 5 months ago

      Insightful post indeed. It is the best for everyone. I never know about mobile first-indexing but this post is an eye opener to me. Thank you so much.

    • Marieke van de Rakt

      Hi Adam! Thanks! You raise a hard and important question. We cannot say that AMP is a real ranking factor. Google has said it is not a ranking factor. But, you’re right, if one of your site is much faster than the other, that’ll improve the user experience and in time your ranking. And speed is a ranking factor.
      We also see AMP-sites getting a different treatment from Google. There are spots in the search results that seem to be solely reserved for AMP sites.

      We’ll have to wait and see how this will evolve!

      • Adam Bermingham
        Adam Bermingham  • 5 months ago

        That’s really interesting that there are spots reserved for AMP. If that’s the case there is a massive opportunity to take advantage early and build up good ranking signals while AMP is new.

        I’m happy that I’ve made the right move implementing AMP. At the very least it won’t do any ranking damage. Unless you could think of a way it can damage ranking?

        • Marieke van de Rakt

          No, you could never be wrong having an AMP site (as long as your content remains the same).

          We’ll see in the future how much advantage AMP actually has. It is hard to say yet. Yoast.com is not entirely AMP yet, but we are planning to do more in the near future.


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