Mobile First Indexing: The New Shift in Google Ranking

Another new Google change? Yep, we’re serious.

You probably know by now that Google is constantly rolling out new elements to its search engine optimization (SEO) algorithm and ranking guidelines.

The newest component is mobile first indexing, and its effects on search results are still being counted and classified as we speak.

This is what we know so far:

Up until now, Google’s index focused primarily on each website’s desktop version and considered the mobile version of the same website as a secondary item. Due to the increase in mobile searches—and the fact that the number of mobile searches is overtaking the number of desktop searches—Google has had to change how it indexes websites.

From now on, Google will be considering mobile sites to be the primary version of a website and desktop versions will be the secondary.

In fact, the consensus seems to be that if a mobile version is available, Google will look at the mobile version instead of the desktop version.

google algorithm change

So, what does this mean for your business? It comes down to this:

Mobile-friendliness has never been more important…and will only get more important from here.

If your company’s website does not include a mobile-friendly version, Google will still look at your desktop website. Since the Google search bot is now looking for mobile first, though, this is the time to get your website development team working on a mobile version.

All signs point to mobile becoming increasingly important in the future, and you don’t want to get left behind in the desktop-version dust—especially if your search ranking will be determined by having a mobile site.

We get a lot of questions about mobile versions of websites, many of them good questions like these:

  1. Why do I need a mobile site?
  2. What’s so great about mobile?
  3. Why can’t people just view my desktop version website on their mobile device?

The truth is that people can view your desktop version website on their mobile devices, and, sure, they can also get the information they need. The issue comes down to creating a positive user experience, and desktop versions of websites do not always make for the greatest mobile experience.

Picture this.

The situation:

You’re out of town, away from your normal dentist, and you’ve got a massive toothache. You do a quick Google search on your phone for a nearby dental office and get a whole list of dental practices in your current area.

Scenario one:

You use the map feature on your phone instead of clicking on an actual website and find a random listing for a dental office near you.

  • The website appears to be optimized for desktop, not mobile, and you’re immediately overwhelmed with information you don’t need.
  • The information is so small that it’s almost impossible to read, you’re having to scroll right and left as well as up and down to find what you need.
  • In fact, all you want is hours of operation and a phone number, but the page is loading slowly and you’re left waiting for these items to appear.

After waiting for a few moments, you get frustrated, backtrack out of the site, and visit another site instead—all the while fighting the pain of a throbbing tooth.

Scenario two:

You click on the top search result (because the majority of people click on items in the first page of search results—in fact, the top organic search result gets around 30 to 33 percent of clicks).

  • You are immediately taken to a mobile-optimized, user-friendly website with a clean design and easy-to-use features.
  • You very quickly find the hours of operation information and the telephone number—which just happens to be a link that you click and are automatically calling the office—and you get an appointment for that afternoon to fix that bothersome tooth.


The key mobile first takeaways here:

  • Google cares about mobile responsiveness because it creates better digital experiences.
  • Mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive versions of websites often significantly change the layout of the website, making it easier for mobile readers to make use of the information.
  • On mobile versions of websites, elements may appear, disappear, or be restructured in ways that make the user’s experience more positive.
  • Better customer experience increases conversions and improves branding efforts.

Per facts distributed by ImpactBnd, 83 percent of mobile users say that a seamless experience across devices is important (via Wolfgang Jaegel), and 57 percent of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile website (via CMS Report).

Those statistics alone should be enough to convince you that mobile should be important to your business, but if not, here’s another:

88 percent of mobile searchers who search for a type of local business will call or visit that business within 24 hours (via Nectafy).

So, what’s next?

If you’ve been holding off on mobile, now is the time to get moving on it. Your priority should be on working with your marketing team to audit your website for mobile-friendliness in light of the mobile-first focus Google has these days. Your mobile version should be clean, responsive, provide relevant data and include a layout that looks similar enough to your desktop version for cohesive branding.

If you have questions or concerns regarding the mobile optimization of your website, give us a call! We’d be happy to set up a consultation to discuss your needs and how to address them.

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