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January 24, 2017

What does a Mobile-First Index Mean for Your SEO?

What Exactly is Indexing?

In a nutshell, crawling is Google’s process of discovering new pages by following links from page to page. After Google crawls the pages of your website and finds your content, it indexes them and stores them in a database. Once stored, Google will use these copies in algorithms that determine search engine results pages (SERPs).  Google is changing its methods of crawling through sites, so it is important that you consider how your website will be affected by the changes that come with a mobile-first index.

What is Google Changing?

Google has officially begun to modify the way that it crawls through websites.  Up until now, Google would crawl sites and index pages for SERP’s as a desktop user. This method of indexing is a way of the past now, as Google will now crawl and index as a mobile user. Here are a few impacts that it will have on your website, and how you can make sure you don’t fall behind as desktop search importance declines.

You’ll Need a Mobile Friendly Template

Most Google searches originate from mobile platforms, and up to this point, Google indexed as a desktop user. If you don’t currently have a mobile site, don’t panic. Google will continue to index your pages as a desktop user. However, you will need to make your website mobile responsive ASAP, as it will begin to hurt you by not having one.  Once you have a mobile responsive website built, you should use the robots.txt testing tool to confirm that Googlebot is accessing your new mobile site.  Be sure to complete your mobile site before launching, as a compatible desktop site will be more visible to Google than an incomplete mobile version.

While a mobile friendly site isn’t a requirement, you should adopt a mobile friendly template sooner rather than later as a mobile friendly designation will allow you to rank higher in search results.

Google May Miss Your Desktop Content

If the content on your mobile and desktop sites is not consistent, Google may fail to index it. In short, if there is content on your desktop site that is not on your mobile site, Google will miss it entirely. To prevent your pages from being missed, avoid complicated redirects and optimize your desktop and mobile pages for the same keywords. These methods will keep your pages consistent and visible to Google’s crawling robot.

While you may not see changes immediately, your search rankings will take a hit over time as Google transitions to strictly mobile indexing. For this reason, adopting a mobile compatible theme is imperative to staying competitive.

Things to Keep in Mind

Google offers the following tips to prepare for a mobile-first index:

  • If you have a responsive site where the content is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you do not have to change anything.
  • If you have a site configuration where content is different across mobile and desktop, you should make some changes to your site.
  • Verify the mobile version of your site in Search Console.
  • If you do not have a mobile optimized site, you need to build one
  • If you only have a desktop site, it will continue to be indexed.

Is your SEO mobile checklist complete? Contact andrew@smokinhotsolutions.com to uncover intermediate to advanced strategies for ranking your small business in 2017. Visit smokinhotsolutions.com to learn more.