Mobile-First Index: What to Expect From the New Google Algorithm

Veronika Mostovaya / 10.26.20181421

It’s hardly a secret for anyone that mobile traffic has surpassed the desktop one. When everyone has a smartphone, why bother using a cumbersome PC or even a laptop when all you need is right there in the palm of your hand?

From browsing social media to online shopping, smartphones simply get it done faster and… well, smarter=). That’s why search algorithms favor those websites, which are mobile-friendly and have responsive design. What’s more is that soon all your search result on the Internet will be ranked using the “mobile-first” index.

Since now you’ve realized how important this mobile-first thing is, let’s go deeper into the subject and talk about getting your website ready for the changes to come.

First off, the mobile first index is not exactly breaking news – a lot of website owners first found out about it when Google announced the release of the new algorithm in 2016. Two years later, on July 1st 2018, mobile-first was officially launched and started to affect the search result immediately assigning higher rankings to the websites, which are mobile-friendly.

Mobile-First Index: How Does It Work?

Not everything is that grim. The main thing that’s changed compared to the previous algorithms is that Google views the mobile-ready version of the web page as the main ranking factor.

Here’s what actually changed:

  • Before: People would search Google from their mobile device and get search results from the mobile index. Therefore, people who searched Google via a desktop device would get “desktop-ready” results.
  • After: It doesn’t matter which device you are using to browse Google, mobile or desktop – you will get mobile index results only

However, this doesn’t mean we will have two indexes running at the same time – it will be just one. That is the mobile one.

Here’s what Google themselves have to say about it: “There’s just one index to process all the search results, the same way it’s always been. We don’t any ‘mobile’ index that’s separated from our ‘main’ one.”

It was probably done to unify the experience people get on mobile and desktop devices. Given the fact that the majority of traffic comes from mobile devices, they were taken as the basis and not the desktop version.

How to Find Out If Your Website Meets the New Requirements

You don’t actually have to do anything – since the new algorithm was launched, Google has been sending notifications to your Search Console. A typical notification looks like this:

After you received it, we strongly recommend you checking your website’s “mobile-friendliness.” To do so, you just need to use this service here – Google Mobile-Friendly. Paste your website link and see the verdict, which can be one of the following:

Your web page is mobile friendly. – You’re OK and don’t have to change anything.

Your web page is not mobile friendly. – It can be difficult to use on a mobile device and needs tweaking.

If your web page got into the second category, the next thing you should do is figure out how Googlebot actually sees your page.

To do so:

  1. Open Search Console and choose “Fetch as Google” in the menu
  2. Under “Mobile: Smartphone” click on “Request indexing”
  3. After the system finished the checkup, click on “>>”

As a result, you will get two windows – how your visitors see your web page and how Googlebot sees it. You will also get a list your website resources that couldn’t be accessed by Googlebot for some reason.

This should give plenty of ideas on what to improve or fix.

Another great way to see what your website needs to become mobile friendly is to open the “Mobile Usability” section in your Search Console.

  • If your website is OK, you will simply get a message reading “No issues were found”
  • If your website is a bit outdated, you will get a list of issues and the corresponding web pages

Finally, you can always use a service called Google PageSpeed Insights, which measures how fast your web pages load. If your website is in the green zone, the pages load fast enough to satisfy your visitors. If it’s yellow or green zone, you’ve got to increase your page load speed.

Here’s a nice article explaining how Google PageSpeed Insights works in detail – “Google PageSpeed Insights: A Tool to Boost Your Page Load Speed.”

What If My Website Doesn’t Meet the New ‘Mobile First’ Requirements?

The new “mobile first” index is already here and it’s going to stay. Websites that don’t have proper mobile optimization aren’t going to get as much love from Google as they used to. Sure enough, Google will not simply bury them somewhere on page 10 of the search results. It’s just they will be given lower priority in comparison to the websites indexed by mobile first. Therefore, not doing anything will definitely lead to your website losing its rankings, visitors and as part of your revenue as a result.

How to Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

If your website has adaptive design and HTML code or if it features AMP-pages, you don’t have to do anything. The main advantage of such design is that it allows web pages to “adapt” to any device it’s being browsed from. If you decided to solve this problem by creating a separate, mobile version of your website, then you will have to spend a bit more time to make it meet Google Mobile First requirements.

You can choose one of the following ways:

  1. Do it via JavaScript
  2. Set up redirect via PHP code
  3. Set up redirect via .htaccess

Needless to say, this is not something an amateur could do so it would be wise to delegate this important task to a professional agency.

But that’s not it. In order to get your mobile version up and running, you’ll also need to:

  • choose the right font size: mobile versions often use size 16
  • aside from the large font size, you need to have menu buttons large enough for users to tap/click
  • hide huge chunks of text (if there are some) under the “View/read more” button
  • scrolling function - if your web page is large enough
  • image previews that can be expanded to full size when tapped/clicked
  • a menu icon to be placed in the upper left corner

Mobile First Index from Google is a quite logical reaction to the trends that have been going on lately. Mobile users are becoming a dominant force and if you don’t want to miss out on a large-soon-to-become-largest part of your audience, you need to consider mobile optimization today.

If you don’t have a website yet but planning on getting one soon, Zwebra specialists strongly recommend you a website with adaptive design.

Whichever you choose, make sure the development is handled by a team of professionals who are aware of the latest trends in both technology and marketing. In any case, don’t hesitate to ask a question or simply get a consult from our team. Zwebra specialists will be glad to help you out and assist in making the right choice!


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