Mobile first - Google changes the way does it’s web indexing

Mobile first – Google changes the way does it’s web indexing[ 3 min read ]

Have you heard of mobile first?

We’ve been talking to a number of our new clients about the browsing habits of users these days; how many times do you sit on a bus, and start browsing on your phone? It’s not just us, Google is reflecting this with ‘mobile-first indexing’ (no we didn’t invent it!)

Those of you who have been around for a while, will notice that this is a complete reversal of what the search index has been doing previously.

Traditionally developers have not designed their sites thinking about the phone users first, as there wasn’t really a need. This smart move from Google will force developers to think more about how the user experience translates between platforms.


So, what it is all about then?  

‘Mobile-First’ means just that.

When Google is doing its index crawl, it will now be looking to see if you have a mobile version of your site first instead of going for the desktop version of your site as it would have previously. It will then build the indexes based on this version of you site first.

If you don’t have a mobile version, then it will just revert to the desktop version of the site and crawl away as usual.

Based on the fact that an increasingly large percentage of web traffic comes from mobile users, this makes sense.

But, and it’s a big but, if you do not have a mobile version of your site then, this could potentially affect the rankings of your site when the site is being accessed by a mobile.

One thing which has been mentioned is the use of hidden content. On desktop websites, content can be ‘hidden’ in accordions, tabs or expandable boxes. This content is not usually weighted as highly as ‘visible’ content. However, Google have suggested that this type of styling, if done for the user experience, would actually be given a full weighting.


Why are Google doing this now?

This has been in plans of Google for some time, it appeared on the Google Webmaster blog in the back end of 2016.

As the majority of people are now browsing content from a mobile device, it really does make sense to make sure that the a site is developed to correctly cope with the small screen size.  

Some statistics we’ve seen suggest that over 50% of browsing is now done on a phone, that is a leap from just over 16% five years ago.

There are still a few sites out there which are not built for mobile usage, yes, we know and it makes us cringe too!

Even though mobile screen sizes are generally larger than they used to be; a desktop version of a site, on a mobile phone just isn’t going to cut it.

People to still use desktops and laptops for browsing; we do it every day, but this is all about the user experience across all devices. Mobile first design looks like is here to stay!


There is no need to panic though, Google will not penalise you!

This is in the early stages, and for most of us who have a site which has been well developed and has a responsive design already; then there may be little that you need to do.

Check to see if your site is currently responsive here

However, if you don’t have a responsive site, then perhaps don’t panic – just get in touch and we’ll talk you through what you need to do to make your site work for you.  

Suzi Smart Bear

I'm Suzi - the owner of The Smart Bear.

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