Google Mobile-First Indexing is (Finally) Here: What You Need to Know

Patrick Coyne
Patrick Coyne Director of Organic & Local Search

Well, it’s finally happened. After nearly two years of threatening, Google has officially started Mobile-First indexing a large number of websites. Websites will be notified regarding the migration to a Mobile-First index via Google Search Console. And they will see “significantly increased crawl rate from the Smartphone Googlebot.” Google has been very careful about rolling this out and it seems that now they are, albeit slowly, finally making the switch.

Arc Intermedia has been talking about Mobile-First since November of 2016, including how it could potentially affect small businesses, as well as the hearsay and misconceptions of Mobile-First.

As a quick refresher, let’s define Google’s Mobile-First Index:

In the past, Google has used the desktop version of a website’s content for its crawling, indexing, and rankings. Although there are mobile-specific ranking factors that frequently result in different rankings between the desktop and mobile versions of a webpage, both mobile and desktop Search results were up until recently based on an index built of desktop versions of websites. But soon it will be based on the mobile version of websites instead.

To clarify, Google does now and will only ever have a single index. There is no Mobile-First index that is separate from the main index. Additionally, if you do not have a mobile version of your website, your desktop version will still be crawled and indexed. Finally, if you have webpages with both a regular mobile version and an Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) version, Google will for at least the time being prefer the regular mobile page.

As mentioned, Google has begun rolling this out and is notifying websites. But if you did not receive a notification just yet – don’t panic! Google explains that this is not a reflection of your rankings or whether your website is properly mobile-optimized.

Additionally, Google explains that “Content gathered by Mobile-First indexing has no ranking advantage over mobile content that’s not yet gathered this way or desktop content.”

So as a website owner, what does this ultimately mean for you? The reality is that when it does occur for your site, you probably won’t see a noticeable difference on your Traffic numbers. Like with virtually every Google update, as long as you’re already following best practices, you should be just fine. These would include implementing responsive website design, improving your website page speed, and making sure all content is easily accessible via mobile devices.

Furthermore, if you’re just now thinking about improving your mobile experience because of a Google update, you’ve got bigger problems than Mobile-First.

To put it simply, a Google update should not be what dictates when or if you work to improve your website. Assuming you’re already prepared ahead of time, it’s unlikely Mobile-First will have any major affect on your site performance.

And if you have more questions about Search Engine Optimization, you can contact us here.