There is some confusion over Googles new ‘mobile first’ indexing rollout which occurred a few weeks ago. Some webmasters and business owners are not sure whether their website is affected or not. This post clarifies some of those concerns.
Anyone reading this has probably already heard the news: Google announced last week that they’re “migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing.” Anyone who keeps abreast of SEO news (or works with clients who do) has probably received an email since that announcement wondering nervously what this means for their site.
Worry not!! This update to Google’s indexing process is not likely to affect your site or your clients’ sites, especially if you’re already following best practices for mobile friendliness. Unless you serve noticeably different content to mobile users than you do to desktop users, the mobile-first index should not change your rankings.
What exactly did Google announce?
This is not the first time Google has talked about mobile-first indexing. In November 2016, they announced that they’d “begun experiments to make [their] index mobile-first.” Now, the mobile-first index is being rolled out “more broadly”, starting with “sites that follow the best practices.”
The mobile-first index is not a separate Google index. Rather, Google will be replacing desktop versions of pages in its index with their mobile counterparts.
If a site you work on has been chosen as one of the lucky ones, you should have received a notification in Google Search Console with the subject line “Mobile-first indexing enabled for www.yoursite.com.” If you haven’t received a notification, I would not assume that your site isn’t being moved to the mobile-first index. As is often the case with Search Console, the absence of information doesn’t tell you much.
Who is NOT affected by mobile-first indexing?
The Google Developer post about the mobile-first index (updated this week) very clearly outlines what kinds of sites will or will not be affected by this update.
This table from that post shows some of the most crucial information about the mobile-first indexing update.
Let’s break it down.
Your Site is Desktop Only
If your site is designed only for desktop users and does not change when a user is on a mobile device, mobile-first indexing will not affect you. That said, you should definitely tailor your site experience for mobile users if you care about SEO, since a growing majority of searches happen on mobile devices (and the data in this post is from 2016)!
Your Site is Responsive
A site using responsive design based on the viewport will not be affected by mobile-first indexing. This is because the “mobile version” of the site has the same content and code as the desktop version, so the indexed content will not change.
Your Site Exists Entirely in AMP
Good for you! If the only version of your site is built in AMP, your site is essentially already in the “mobile-first index”, because your site is streamlined for mobile users.
Who IS affected by mobile-first indexing?
Your Site has Separate URLs for Mobile and Desktop Content
If your mobile site exists on a separate subdomain (such as m.yoursite.com), or you serve up mobile URLs in place of desktop URLs (yoursite.com/examplepage/mobile), mobile-first indexing WILL affect you. Google will start to index the mobile pages preferentially over the desktop pages