First off, don’t panic. The internet as we know it is always changing, as are the devices we use to access the internet. Now that more than 244 million people in the US have a smartphone or connected device, naturally the way in which we search and see ranked results has changed.
Google’s Mobile First Index is an extraordinary step by Google to recognize the evolution of search and the importance of weighing a website’s mobile version in ranking and Search Engine Results Page (SERPs).
Here’s how it works: In the past, when someone searched on a mobile device, Google would crawl and report back content found only on a website's desktop version. With the Mobile First Index, Google will now consider a website's mobile version in addition to the desktop version. For sites optimized for mobile devices, this will give them a leg up over the competition.
Google has been rolling out this feature for more than a year now. As it continues to evolve, there are many lessons to be learned and new practices that must be adopted if websites are to remain competitive in 2019 and beyond.
First, Google has provided us a key insight into what they think the websites of the future will look like and the devices we will use to view them. Obviously, mobile is king. But more importantly, mobile-friendly websites will no longer be an exception, but rather the rule.
Mobile First Indexing is placing pressure on developers and businesses to ensure websites are optimized both in terms of speed and content for mobile users. MFI will not kill off desktop version of sites, and for the next few years desktop only websites may not see any substantial fall off in traffic, but in time those who fail to evolve will be left in the dust.
To prepare your site for Google’s Mobile First Indexing, developers and SEO experts will want to place a particular emphasis on ensuring a site’s mobile version has all of the high-quality, vibrant content that simultaneously exists on the desktop version. SEO experts must also pay close attention to structured data and metadata to ensure cohesion between both versions. No longer can a site’s mobile version be just a simple rendering of the “main” desktop website. Rather mobile versions will need to be as good as, if not better, than the desktop version.
Lastly, businesses must begin building Mobile First Indexing strategies before their competition does. One key to this strategy must be speed. Slow load times on any website, mobile or not, is a traffic killer. Use tools like PageSpeed Insights by Google to gauge mobile and desktop load speeds. Also, use plug-ins like Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to enhance your site's accessibility for mobile users.
While Google’s Mobile First Indexing initiative should not cause alarm for most, it is a wake-up call for those who have ignored or been oblivious to the rise and dominance of mobile devices. The future is mobile, and mobile is king.