Last week, we started receiving a flood of emails from Google telling us that several sites we look after have had mobile-first indexing enabled. It seems that we’re not alone here, with Search Engine Roundtable also reporting an outpouring of these notifications received last Thursday.
This sudden wash of emails might cause some webmasters to be a little taken aback, especially if they own a large number of sites, but what does it mean, and what should they do?
Does it mean my site needs to be mobile-friendly?
Without doubt, your site does need to be mobile-friendly, given that for the best part of two years now, mobile traffic has outweighed desktop. However, as John Mueller from Google has explained, mobile-first indexing is not a mobile-friendliness issue.
A common misconception is that mobile-first indexing is related to mobile-friendliness — they're completely independent. If you have that many sites verified (luckily there's a 1k limit :)), I'd just mute that message.
— 🐄 John 🐄 (@JohnMu) September 19, 2018
Google already penalises websites that aren’t mobile-friendly in its rankings, but this is more about where Google sources its information from. In theory, a site could perform very poorly on a mobile device, yet contain the information Google needs to extract to contribute positively towards its rankings and search engine performance.
What mobile-first indexing means is that Google is using the mobile version of sites as its first point of resource when indexing. Mobile site data will therefore be used to compile rankings and pull out information for Google snippets.
As Mueller has noted, if you run a large number of websites, you’re likely to get swamped with these emails, so it’s advisable to mute, ignore or delete them.
What should I do about this?
One of the most important matters to consider in this shift towards mobile-first is that all Google’s algorithms have evolved over the course of its 20-year existence. It still mainly relies upon text. This is significant because text is often truncated on mobile forms of sites.
What it means is that website owners must make sure that any content they have written with a clear SEO-focus, such as keyword-specific landing pages, should be visible on the mobile version of their site. In other words, if you do need to limit text, do it shrewdly, bearing in mind that if Google isn’t finding what it’s looking for on your mobile site, it may move on to a competitor before crawling through your desktop equivalent.
If the mobile revolution is worrying you, or you have any questions about how it might affect your site, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at Engage Web.