Google just started rolling out the so-called “mobile-first” index. It’s going to change the way that your site gets ranked in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Here are a things you need to know about the mobile-first index so that you can optimize your website accordingly.
What is the mobile-first index?
For starters, your website might present a completely different display to mobile users versus desktop users. In some cases, links that appear on the desktop version of your site might not appear on the mobile version. That’s bad because the Googlebot can’t follow links that aren’t there. As a result, your site might take a hit in the SERPs.
Keep in mind also that Google uses a number of ranking signals to determine where your site should land in the results list. If the bot finds that your site is hostile to mobile users or loads very slowly, you’re definitely going to lose rank.
The bottom line -- when performing search engine optimization (SEO) for your site, start with optimizing it for a mobile audience. That’s the prime directive now.
Why is Google using a mobile-first index?
If you’re wondering why Google is switching to a mobile-first index, the answer is simple. Mobile is everything. That’s the short answer, anyway. The long answer is a little more involved.
For starters, the number of mobile users surpassed the number of desktop users a couple of years ago. If anything, Google is late to the game. In addition to that, Google says that there are more mobile searches than desktop searches. So it makes perfect sense that its bot should crawl pages as a mobile user.
What if you don’t have a mobile site?
If you don’t have a responsive website, you might be asking yourself: “What’s going to happen to my site?” You can rest easy. The Googlebot will crawl the desktop version of your site just fine, even though it’s using a mobile user agent. That means your site can still be indexed.
Free advice, though -- you should definitely switch over to a responsive template. In this day and age, anyone who’s serious about making a statement online needs a website that adapts to a mobile platform.