All Things Digital

Mobile-First Indexing

Mobile-First Indexing: Why should you care?

This is one of the big-impact rollouts that Google has made in the recent times.  And if you are a CMO or Digital Marketing captain or anyone who has got to do anything with your brand’s digital traction, this is something you should be aware of.

Mobile-first indexing is Google’s attempt at according priority to the mobile version of your site as a key determinant for its indexing and ranking maths.

Because let’s face it. Mobile is an unmistakable trend. 57% of traffic is coming from smartphones and tablets (as per a BrightEdge study). And if the same query on the same search engine whips up a different rank in mobile and desktop, nearly 79 percent of the time, then the world can’t continue the same way as usual. A comScore report this July 2018 too indicated that India, Mexico, and Indonesia show four times higher smartphone vs desktop audience. Earlier, it also noted that 1/3rd of UK page views are coming from mobile and tablets. It also showed that in terms of digital commerce, mobile is fast outpacing desktop (Amazon growth rate of mobiles was 87%).

Googlebot is, thus, doing for mobile what Google’s algorithms have been doing for desktop versions of your marketing content. This can dovetail well with two purposes – to better accommodate the growing population of mobile users and how they search and interact with information. At the same time, it helps iron out issues for mobile searchers when the desktop version differs from the mobile version.

Well, if the mobile and desktop versions of your site are comparable, then it may be a redundant feature to spruce up to as long as you have optimized the site for mobile context well enough. But since it is a mobile-first and not a mobile-only index, it will serve you and your branding goals significantly if you ensure that you are not falling out of the mobile bandwagon already. The desktop versions would be included in this index even if a brand lacks a mobile presence, but one will have to carefully carve a mobile-friendly experience to be on a good spot in the rankings.

The mobile wave is going to hit strong, sooner or later. Forrester augurs that mobile phones will drive most of the expansion in paid search ad spending, yes, pitching in 69 percent of the $19 billion in growth by 2022. To add to that, mobile’s influence on offline retail sales is showing a pace of 6.3 percent a year, all set to touch $1.4 trillion by 2021 (i.e. 36 percent of total retail sales.)

Am I the chosen one?

Google Mobile Index

So when Google tells you that the mobile-first index is enabled for your site, there is no need to panic or take knee-jerk measures as there are no penalties and the transition is going to take some time. But what this implies is that crawling and indexing for search results will now entail mobile versions of your content. Google will evaluate each site on its readiness for mobile-first indexing and transition when the site is ready.

You may see more traffic in your logs from Googlebot Smartphone agent. You may also spot snippets in Google Search results now generated from the mobile version of your content.

Think of it as an opportunity. It is about time that SEO and marketing strategies adapted to the way users have been moving – towards mobile.

Here’s what you should get started with:

  • Sit down with your content and marketing partners and embrace the new set of opportunities and gaps that this switch would mean for your web and digital assets.
  • Ensure that desktop and mobile versions are responsive and comparable. The mobile version should not be a mere lightweight version to tick the mobile box. It should mean something in terms of information, SEO and content.
  • Similarly, have a fresh look at meta-data, spam, ad-loading time, viewport sizing, user experience, console verification, internationalization and optimization and seek expert help for the new scenario.
  • Note how, as per SmartInsights data, over 80 percent of mobile minutes in all markets is spent on apps. Get smart and dapper on those fronts too.
  • Make formats crawl-easy and index-easy in your mobile content.

Mobile-first is a new turn in the pages of a marketing book. The world is changing and it is an opportunity for the prepared. So get ready, mobile-ready.

Let us know if you need help in evaluating whether your site is ready for mobile-first indexing.