Google knows where the future of search lies – on your smartphone screens. After announcing its prioritization of mobile over desktop searches in 2016, Google has finally moved to index mobile-first in order to improve the search experience.

What is Happening?

Mobile searches have overtaken searches done on desktops, and Google’s noticed. For the past 2 years, Google has really focused on making the search engine more and more mobile-friendly. Now, Google is indexing mobile-first, a goal they first brought up in 2016.

Why the delay? Well, they didn’t want search results to dramatically change as a result of the shift, so they’ve gradually taken steps to prioritize mobile search over desktop. Indexing mobile-first was a final step of that.

How does the rollout of this update work? Not everyone is yet affected by this change. Google is choosing to rollout the practice to those that already have been following mobile-first best practices. If you haven’t adopted these practices yet, you still have time, but don’t delay or it will eventually catch up to you.

Will I be affected? Maybe. If your site is already responsive, you shouldn’t fall in search rankings. If those ranked higher than you don’t have a responsive site, however, them you may jump ahead of them.

What if there is no mobile index? If there is no mobile index, Google will index the desktop version of a webpage, however, the page will likely face a penalty.

How do I know if Google can see my mobile pages? Use Google’s Fetch and Render tool. Specify mobile:smartphone user-agent and look at the preview. This will be a good indicator on how it will appear in a mobile-first index. If content is missing, then there’s something you need to fix.

Mobile-First Best Practices for Separate URLs

Separate URLs? Then how do you ensure that your website is not negatively impacted by this change? Make sure that your site is optimized for mobile in these 5 ways, as indicated by Google itself.

Make sure content is the same. Content should be the same on both the mobile and desktop versions of your site, including text, images, and video.

Structured data should be present on both versions of the site. Make sure structured data on the mobile versions are updated to the mobile URLs.

Match your metadata. Ensure your titles and meta descriptions are the same on both versions of the site.

Ensures servers have sufficient capacity. Because of the increased crawl rate on the mobile version of your site, you’ll need to ensure you have enough capacity to handle Google’s indexing.

Verify both versions of your website. Verify both versions in Search Console. This way, you’ll have access to data and messages for both versions.

Mobile is Critical

Over the years, we’ve written a number of blogs on Google’s efforts to improve the mobile experience. The efforts have evolved to the point where Google is indexing mobile versions of sites first, thus prioritizing mobile over desktop. Now, more than ever, do marketers and business owners need to take seriously mobile optimization.

Read more on mobile-first indexing:

Google’s Official Mobile-First Best Practices

Mobile-First Indexing FAQs