Google have recently announced a new development that means it’s more important than ever to have a responsive website that looks good on mobile. It’s called their ‘mobile-first index’. Which probably means nothing to you, but fear not! Allow us to explain...
To understand the mobile-first index, we need to understand two SEO terms – CRAWLING and INDEXING.
What is crawling?
Google sends out ‘spiders’ or ‘bots’ to your website for tracking purposes. They ‘crawl’ around, follow links to and from your site and discover pages around the web.
What is indexing?
After the spiders have finished crawling, Google processes each webpage and adds it to their ‘index’. This is basically a catalogue of pages on the internet. When you do a search, Google looks at its index to provide you with the best result.
What’s the mobile-first index?
Google currently only have one index. With most people using their mobiles to search these days, this is causing a problem. Mobile users are seeing a snippet of the desktop webpage, but once they click, they’re being re-directed to the mobile site. In some cases, this has stripped-back content, which means the results Google show aren’t always representative of the actual page’s people see.
Within the next month or two, Google are planning to have two indexes – one for desktop and one for mobile. That means mobile users will see mobile results. The ‘mobile-first’ part of the name is because this will be Google’s main index from now on. The desktop one will still exist, but it won’t be updated as often.
How does this affect you?
It won’t affect you much if you already have a responsive website – a design where the layout changes to display well on a range of displays and devices. As the content stays the same, your mobile and desktop rankings should be fairly similar.
If you have separate mobile and desktop sites, certain content might not be on both versions. If the mobile spiders can’t see it, it won’t be in the mobile index and therefore can’t help you rank in the mobile search results. That means you could see your rankings fall when the new index is released (at least for mobile searches).
Something else to keep in mind with the mobile index being introduced is that it will take longer for updates to come through on desktop. There might be a delay with updating page titles and information, or new pages appearing in the search results.
It’s more important than ever before to have a responsive website that works on mobile and desktop. If you don’t have one or currently have a separate mobile site, it might be time to make a change.