What is Mobile-First Indexing and How Does it Affect SEO

The search behemoth Google is slowly starting to roll out a new policy for web indexing. The concept is to rank mobile versions of websites higher than desktop sites, anticipating the trend that has seen mobile browsing overtake desktop browsing over the last decade. As of December 2017, only a few websites are currently indexed with the mobile-first policy, but the point of this test is to eventually broaden the approach to any website with both mobile and desktop versions.

The importance of Google for marketing visibility is undeniable, and anything the search engine does to its algorithm becomes important to business owners. The shift towards mobile is well-documented, with US mobile-only users surpassing desktop-only users in 2015 and more than half of global web traffic driven by mobile devices since Q1 2017. If the trend continues, which seems likely, Google is getting ahead of the shift by prioritizing mobile sites over desktop sites.

What this means for your website design

Developing both a desktop and mobile site can be a bit more expensive, but most businesses have realized the importance of having a mobile website, and so they have spent the money to develop one. However, smartphone and tablet processing power and cooling capabilities are not the same as laptops or desktops.

Even more importantly, desktops, and to a lesser extent laptops, have a continuous power supply. Mobile devices rely heavily on battery power, much more so than even laptops, which are easy to plug in and continue to use comfortably. This dual limitation of available power and processing capabilities has led to many mobile sites being less content-rich than their desktop counterparts. An unfortunate problem arises: two separate websites evolve, and the mobile version lacks some of the  most exciting and important marketing tactics.

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Mobile-first indexing will prioritize mobile sites, and that means businesses need to focus on developing worthy mobile counterparts to their desktop sites. If your mobile page lacks most of the important aspects of your product, you will be at a disadvantage as Google’s algorithms prioritize your lackluster mobile page over your desktop page. Even worse, your competitor’s mobile page might be more highly ranked than your desktop page. Google has helpfully published a brief guide to best practices for their mobile-first indexing policy.  Instead of developing separate website for mobile and desktop your site should now be using responsive web design.  Responsive web design is a technique to build web pages that alter how they look using CSS3 media queries. That is, there is one HTML code for the page regardless of the device accessing it, but its presentation changes using CSS media queries to specify which CSS rules apply for the browser displaying the page.

With these things in mind, businesses need to pay attention to more developments from Google’s team. SEO practices are always changing, and any announcement Google makes will be important for the future of your marketing campaigns.

How the Mobile App fits in

The mobile-first indexing approach is largely concerned with how mobile and desktop versions of a website will be ranked. However, the use of mobile apps is also on the rise, with literally hundreds of billions of downloads per year. How can a business leverage their app to better understand their customers browsing habits? They need to implement Google Analytics on their app, of course.

In conjunction with Google Analytics for websites, using app analytics will help businesses better parse their customer base. Perhaps the mobile app users are already happy with your mobile website, and they regularly move between the app and mobile site. Or maybe they hate your mobile site, and they switch devices when they want to purchase something, using the mobile app only for browsing.

These kinds of insights can help you determine how much time and effort should be spent on improving the mobile experience. Do not underestimate the trend of desktop-to-mobile browsing habits, and certainly do not underestimate the power Google has in your marketing visibility strategy online.

To learn more about our mobile web design, contact us at 214-432-1608 or toll free at 888-636-1344. Or if you prefer, you can complete our Free Online Request Form and someone will be in touch promptly.