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Mobile-first Indexing: Ready for Every Screen

In this day and age, most people are searching the web using a mobile device. What does this mean? Well, if you have a website that is only desktop ready, it means you are missing out on impacting the majority of users navigating the web. This can affect your site in many ways - one crucial way being the search ranking of your site.

In 2016, Google announced their mission to completely transition to mobile-first indexing for the Google Index. They have recently [March 2020] released a blog post stating, "we'll be switching to mobile-first indexing for all websites starting September 2020..." (Google, 2020).

Do not panic! There are many very effective ways to get ahead of this 2020 curveball, and we are going to lay it all out flat to be understood so you and your business can maximize impact and start with a sprint.

author photo

Cameron Cook


First off: What is Mobile-first Indexing?

a. Mobile-first Indexing is precisely what it sounds like. It simply means the mobile version of a website is the beginning point of what Google comprehends and includes in their search index. It also sets the basic standard of how they determine rankings in search.

b. (Artifact A) The process is very similar, almost up to the point of boosting rankings, but that is where mobile-first indexing takes advantage of sites without mobile-friendly experiences.

i. Starting with desktop-first: Google sends a bot to crawl your desktop website initially - reading metadata, alt- attributes, anything potentially "indexable".

ii. It then determines the rankings for mobile and desktop, even though this is desktop-first indexing.

iii. From there it can recognize there is a mobile-friendly version of your site and proceeds to boost the mobile site ranking

iv. Proceeding to Mobile-first: You'll want to understand that the phrase "mobile-first" means the mobile site is now the primary site, before anything.

v. Google sends a bot to crawl your mobile website 1st - doing exactly what it'd do for desktop.

vi. The ranking of the mobile and desktop are determined by the content on your mobile site.

vii. If there happens to be no mobile site, Google's bot will automatically direct its efforts towards crawling the desktop site.

2. What should be done about Mobile-first Indexing?

a. There are methods to this madness - all of them having to do with the equivalence between the mobile and desktop versions of your sites. Now there are some red flags to consider before putting these methods into practice. Understanding the difference between "equivalent" and "identical" is one of them.

i. Equivalence between the versions of your site showcase the thought and effort into integrating and optimizing your content to be responsive and adaptable. It doesn't matter the device individuals use; it will be the same branded experience reformed for mobile browsers.

ii. Identical versions can be seen from miles away. From character counts not fitting inside the margins to content being oddly placed due to lack of formatting.

b. The methods of web development for the best use of mobile-first indexing are simple to identify but can be tricky to implement. These are the methods that will help you come out on top with your mobile version:

i. Responsive Web Design (RWD)

1. A website, in general, that is designed to be responsive and adaptable to the type of screen it is being viewed on is a responsive webpage.

2. If you have a desktop, you can easily inspect the site and page-search for responsive nature.

a. Go to any webpage, preferably one with high traffic

b. For Windows: CTRL + U

c. For Mac: CTRL + ⌘ + U

d. Search the word "Responsive" and if it comes up, the website's format is responsive and adaptable to mobile

ii. Content

1. The most important part of a smooth transition to mobile format is the keeping the quality standard of the content high. Maintaining your high-quality content - text, photos, and video - when formatting your mobile site will help the content remain "indexable".

iii. Metadata

1. Headings, sub-headings and body text should be equivalent through both version of all pages on your website.

a. Repeating the importance of differing equivalence and "identical": There should be optimization in character count, but make sure it is the same information and appropriate keywords that stay relevant through both versions.


Mobile-first indexing should not complicate your life, and with the right preparation it can be very beneficial in many things. By creating a responsive and adaptive nature within your site and your content, there will only be room to grow and improve.

Prior actions taken before mobile-first in fully in-action (Google, 2020) has the potential to steep your site's search ranking, expedite a strong indexing strategy, circumnavigate any potential contingencies in the user experience, and of course, garner traffic to fuel an effective funnel of possible leads.

To hit a curveball, you have to swing early - even if it is a bit scary. These changes can be very beneficial, it is just a matter of how you react and act to the circumstances. Take these tips and run with them all the way home and set a high-standard baseline for your site to streamline.

Visit our contact page to learn more about mobile first indexing and receive a quote on your SEO needs.

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