At PubCon, a webmaster conference, Gary Illyes of Google made the official announcement that Google would be rolling more websites into the mobile-first index within the next few weeks.
What’s the Mobile-First Index all about?
Google will begin ranking search listings based on the mobile version of content found on your website. This includes search results shown on desktop computers.
Google wants to begin indexing based on the majority of where their users are found: which is on mobile. This keeps the search experience similar across all devices.
In the past, Google has been crawling the web from the point of view of a desktop browser. However, now this is changing to a mobile browser point of view.
An Update on the Mobile-First Index
Google started moving some websites into the mobile-first index back in October 2017, but this list was restricted to a limited few.
Google has stated that if your site is not ready for this, then it will not be moved. But the next batch is on the way, and so many websites may be up next.
The mobile version of the web will be the primary search engine index from now on – so it’s essential the content on your site is displayed properly for mobile browsers.
If you don’t already have a mobile website, Google says it isn’t a huge deal. It will still crawl your desktop site fine, but your rankings may not be the best possible, as clearly you aren’t giving the best possible experience for mobile users.
If you have a mobile website, it’s essential all the content on your site is similar to your desktop, so that Google is crawling the full website rather than a more limited mobile version. If your mobile website is stripped down or doesn’t present the full experience, then obviously this can impact your rankings.
Think of it this way: if Google is crawling a mobile version of your site and it has less or different content to the desktop version, Google won’t be taking the full level of content into account.
This is exactly why Google has stated that a responsive mobile design is the best way forwards, as it keeps the same level of content across every page on your website, and will ensure your rankings are protected.
The bottom line is that while we have known about this mobile-first index for some time, it looks like it’s getting very close to being fully rolled-out. So it’s essential you are prepared.