Mobile First Indexing

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Mobile First Indexing

You know Google is constantly changing and adapting.  One of the more recent changes effects every website: mobile-first indexing.  If you have a website and you don’t know about mobile-first indexing, this article is for you!

Around April of 2018, Google began indexing the mobile version of websites because most searches are now being performed on mobile.

“Indexing” is essentially Google’s record of your site and what’s on your pages. If your site “cannot be indexed”, that means Google can’t see it at all and doesn’t have a record of it.  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s crucial to ensure your pages can be indexed and that they’re indexed correctly.  If you need help checking your website or connecting Google Search Console, please contact me!

If you have a responsive-design website, you don’t need to worry much, but you should still do some checks (see below).  If you have a separate mobile version of your site though, you might need to make some adjustments.

The term “Mobile-first indexing” makes it sound like there might be a 2nd index for desktop, but there is not.  There is only 1 Google Index.  If your site is not mobile-friendly, Google will move on to index the desktop site, but this will negatively affect your search ranking.  Back in 2015 Google started penalizing sites that weren’t mobile-friendly, dropping their search ranking by up to 50%.  This penalty will be even more significant now.

If you have 2 separate websites for mobile and desktop, desktop searches will link to the desktop URL and vice versa for mobile, but your mobile content is what will show up in either search.  If your mobile site doesn’t mirror your desktop site… you can see the problem.

screen shot of problem with separate desktop and mobile sites with mobile-first indexing

What You Should Do

Enter your website URL into Google’s mobile-friendliness test. If it’s not mobile-friendly, fix the things Google suggests and test again.  If you need help, call your webmaster or a local web designer (ehhem, me!).  It could be the perfect time to get the new website you’ve been wanting.

If everything checks out okay, make sure that your mobile content is totally optimized.  Also, make sure you’re not hiding any good content on mobile!

Many website builders have “Visibility Options” where you can choose “hide on mobile”.  Some people do this to keep mobile pages as compact as possible.  This is fine to use for images that aren’t integral to your message, but don’t do this with your content!

Google states that “hiding” text with tabs, accordions, or hamburger menus are all completely fine.  That content still shows up in the HTML and therefore can still be read by Google’s bots.  It also makes for a better user experience!  If you need to make the mobile view of your site more compact, opt for tabs and accordions rather than completely hiding SEO-valuable content.

Questions?  Feel free to comment below!

P.S. Google has changed desktop search results to use the shortened meta descriptions (aka snippets) they’ve been using for mobile search results.  Check each of your page’s meta description and rewrite it to be 150-160 characters.  It’s not super strict, so if you’re a few characters longer, don’t worry.

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Photo of Abby Lehman Buzon, owner of The Helpful Marketer

About the Author

Abby Buzon

I'm Abby (Armstrong-Lehman) Buzon, Lead Designer & Owner of The Helpful Marketer, based in Medina County, Ohio. I got my start in marketing and website administration in 2010, became a mom in 2015, and left my day job in 2017 to begin The Helpful Marketer. I'm happier than I've ever been and I truly love what I do, so I'm here to share my story and give some marketing tips along the way!


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