What You Need to Know About the Google Mobile-First Index

Justin McIntyre
November 11, 2016

April 2017 Update: According to Google, the mobile-first update is still months away. It will likely launch sometime in 2017


With over half of our searches first starting on our mobile devices, Google is always under the SERP hood, tinkering with its search engine to ensure that user experience on mobile devices is at its best.

We saw this with the mobile algorithm update in 2014, the inception of accelerated mobile pages, and constant tweaks to the SERP.

Until now, these have all been slight alterations to our focus on desktop approaches, but the future may hold a full departure from desktop.  


What’s the Google mobile-first index?

Earlier this month, Google announced a slow rollout to a “mobile-first index.” What does this mean? Don’t we already live in a mobile-first world?

While there’s been an emphasis on mobile for a while now, this announcement means that Google will continue to crawl, index, and rank from a single index. However, algorithms will eventually use the mobile version of a site for ranking, rather than the desktop version.


How does this impact your website?

This rollout is still in the preliminary stages of testing and it is unlikely that we will see any large-scale shifts with this for several months. In the meantime, it’s important to consider the following aspects of your site.

  • Is your site mobile optimized and how? 
  • Does your site have content that is greatly varied between mobile and desktop? If your site is using a separate URL for mobile optimization, content may vary greatly. This is one reason Google tends to recommend responsive design for your website. 
  • Is your mobile site accessible to Googlebot? Google recommends using the Fetch & Render feature in Google Search console to see your mobile site from the eyes of a search bot. 
  • What technical SEO aspects need to be considered for your mobile site? If you use schema on only your desktop site or your site loads exceptionally slow on a smartphone, these are technical items that should be addressed in the coming months.

If you have any questions on the latest update or you’d like to speak with digital marketing experts on how you can make your site ready for a mobile-first world, contact us

Justin McIntyre
Director, SEO & Content

Justin hails from Mineral Ridge, Ohio, but the #1 place he’s dying to visit is Hogwarts. His guilty pleasure? Frozen pizza, A.K.A fro’za. When asked what his dream vehicle was, Justin replied, “Drive? Pshh, I’d teleport.”

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