Mobile-first indexing: 5 things you need to know


Mobile-first indexing makes Googlebot show the mobile version of pages in its SERPs by default. Previously, Google’s crawling, indexing, and ranking systems used the desktop version of a website’s content and this can cause ranking problems for mobile users when there’s a significant difference between the desktop and mobile versions of the same page.

But what does that mean for your ranking? Should you worry? Should you do anything? Google has been pretty vocal on mobile-first indexing. In this article, we will talk you through five things you need to know about mobile-first indexing.

What is Mobile-First Indexing?

According to Google Developers, mobile-first indexing means:

“Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. … Since the majority of users now access Google Search with a mobile device, Googlebot primarily crawls and indexes pages with the smartphone agent going forward.”

Here is a quick summary of the 5 things you should know about how mobile-first indexing works and how to prepare.

1. Do a mobile-friendliness test

You do not have to have a mobile site to be in the mobile-first index, as Google will index desktop sites as well. But, it’s going to be harder to rank if your site is not mobile-friendly. So there’s work to do for all of you who have not have a mobile-friendly site yet.

So what do you need to do? Check out Google’s mobile-friendliness test and check whether or not your site is mobile friendly. In our experience, this is a minimum requirement. If your site does not pass this test, your mobile version is not up to scratch. This meaning,  you might need to use the help of a web developer professional like ourselves to level up the quality of your site.

2. Think about UX on mobile

A mobile website needs a different design than a desktop version to appeal to your audience. Your screen is tiny. While it might make sense to discard a lot of content on mobile due to space limitations, that wouldn’t be a good practice.

Of course, you can improve the mobile user experience by following best practices. For instance, Google explained that hamburger or accordion menus are perfectly fine to use. These kinds of menus make sense; they help a mobile user to browse through your website. Putting content behind a tab to make the mobile experience better is also totally fine.

3. Make sure content is the same on desktop and mobile

Your mobile site must mirror the content of your desktop version. Google cautions that deliberately providing less content on mobile than on desktop may result in traffic loss upon indexing. Consistency in content across platforms ensures a seamless user experience and search engine visibility. Uphold parity between desktop and mobile content to avert potential setbacks and maintain a coherent digital presence that caters to all users effectively.

One specific tip Google gives here is to make sure the headers on your mobile site match your desktop site.

4. Check out those mobile snippets

Is your audience mainly mobile? Do they come from the mobile search results to your page? Or does most of your organic traffic come from the desktop SERPs? Make sure to check this in your Google Analytics.

If your search traffic is mostly from mobile search result pages, make sure to optimize your mobile snippet in our Google preview.

5.  Follow Google’s additional recommendations

Here are some of the other tips Google recommends for mobile-first optimization:

  • Put the same metadata on both versions of your site.
  • Follow the Better Ads Standard when displaying ads on mobile devices.
  • Make sure that the images on your mobile site follow image SEO best practices.
google mobile-first indexing—screenshot showing image SEO recommendations
  • Make sure that the videos on your mobile site follow the video best practices.
  • If your site has separate URLs for the desktop and mobile versions of a page, make sure you verify those pages in Search Console and make sure the URLs aren’t fragmented.

Do you need help with optimising your business online?

Contact our experts today to get your website ready.

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