What is the Google Mobile First Index and How Will it Affect Me?

The answer is it depends on how proactive your organization has been in anticipating this trend.  We are officially at the tipping point where mobile devices are being used significantly more than desktops.  If your average day is like mine, you are juggling multiple devices at different points in your day for different uses.

You get up for work and check your smartphone…over breakfast, and coffee, you migrate to your tablet to look at your emails and the scan the news.  In the office, you use your desktop but may carry your tablet and smartphone to meetings.

Coming home from work, it’s all about the productivity of your smartphone.  The shift to your tablet comes after dinner and you may even use your laptop later to respond to emails.  Rinse and repeat.

This past November, Google made a major but expected announcement…mobile-first indexing was officially here.  In a nutshell, this means that SEO has been turned on its head.  The focus has historically been on desktop SEO and going forward it will be mobile SEO.  The reason for the change comes down to improving the customer experience as mobile devices are being used to digest content now more than desktops.

Consider these facts from Google:mobile first indexing

  • 69% of smartphone users go to mobile search first in a time of need
  • 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a related business within a day and 28% make a purchase.
  • Walgreens shoppers who use their app purchase 6x more than those without the app.

So, what does this really mean to you?

Here is the official post from Google Webmasters from November 2016:

To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we’re going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.”

Here are the top 3 things you need to do…

# 1 – Optimize your site for mobile now if you haven’t done so already

The key is that going forward, Google will be looking more at mobile versus desktop searches to determine rank. That means that if your site is not optimized for mobile devices, your rank could be negatively affected for both desktop and mobile rankings.

Having a responsive mobile optimized site will be critical this year.  This should be a seamless experience for the visitor no matter what device they are using.  If you are not sure if your site is properly optimized for mobile, you can check it quickly with this quick test from Google, https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly.

Here’s a great example of a mobile friendly site.  Productivity tool Evernote has been consistently recognized as having one of the best mobile friendly and well-optimized sites.



Shutterfly is also another great example of a company that is doing this right.

google mobile index


# 2 – Evaluate if your content translates well into a mobile format.

For example, a long form blog with 3,500 words would be very difficult to read on a smaller mobile device.  You might want to consider shorter content in different formats, such as video or infographics.  It is worthwhile to test different types of content to see how they perform across devices.  An easy fix is just to make your site responsive so you don’t lose the integrity of your content.

# 3 – Prioritize your efforts based on what Google prioritizes

For example, site speed has always been a top indicator for evaluating site health, but now it has been elevated to a new level.  If your site is slow to load on a mobile device, the user has many more choices if they have had an unsatisfactory user experience with you.  There are plenty of great tools out there to reduce the size of your site.

The level of customer engagement is also a good indicator that your visitor is having a good user experience. In our new mobile-first world, we owe it to our visitors to make the process of going from one page to the other very easy and intuitive.

In Summary

Our collective SEO efforts will need to adjust quickly as the needs of our customers are evolving.  The Mobile First initiative should not be wildly disruptive if you are already following the best practices for SEO.  If not, you may have some catching up to do.  At the end of the day, designing a responsive site is more important than ever because it correlates so highly with the customer experience and ultimately satisfaction.

How is your marketing team handling this issue?  Please share your ideas with our community!



Ruth Young Group