What You Need to Know About Google's Mobile-First Indexing Update

Google search on black android device
Alana Battalino
Alana Battalino

For a long time, Google predominantly indexed information from desktop sites. When mobile began getting popular, it indexed information from both desktop and mobile sites, but still favored desktop sites over mobile. Then, a little over a year ago, Google began indexing mobile sites first. Now, Google announced that starting in July, all new sites will be set to mobile-first indexing by default. 

Here’s what you need to know about mobile-first indexing and how it’ll affect your site. 

What is mobile-first indexing?

To bring you up to speed, search engines, like Google, crawl websites and index information so that it can respond to users’ search queries accurately and efficiently. 

Does mobile-first indexing alter search rankings?

Kind of. Indexing and ranking are two separate things entirely, but indexing lays the foundation for ranking, and a page cannot be ranked unless it’s indexed first.

When Google indexes information, it reads and stores a web page’s content so that it can access it later. On the other hand, ranking is the process where the indexed information is evaluated based on how well it matches a user’s search criteria. 

An easy way to understand this process is to liken it to a library and a librarian. Libraries typically store hundreds of books of varying information, and it's the job of the librarian to recommend the best books based on your specified criteria.  

Who will this mobile-first update affect?

It’s important to note that this update will only affect brand new sites. This means that only sites that Google has never seen before will be automatically set to mobile-first indexing by default. 

In the meantime, old sites that have already been moved to mobile-first indexing will continue to be indexed this way, while other sites that have not migrated to mobile-first indexing will continue to use desktop-first indexing. 

When a website switches from desktop-first indexing to mobile-first indexing, Google sends out a notification through Google Search Console to alert site owners of the change. However, no notifications will be sent to brand new sites after July 1st regarding mobile-first indexing because it’s the default state of indexing web pages. 

How can I prepare my site for mobile-first indexing?

By now, it should be obvious that mobile sites are more important to Google than desktop sites. If you have an old desktop site, you should actively be optimizing it for mobile. The sooner your desktop site is optimized for mobile, the sooner Google will switch it to mobile-first indexing. 

If you’re planning to launch a brand new site after July 1st, then you need to ensure that it works well on mobile. Test the site before launch to make sure that the content is easy to read on a mobile screen, and that the buttons are large enough to be tapped with a finger and not clicked with a mouse. 

Launching a site that isn’t optimized for mobile could create major issues in terms of indexing and ranking within Google. After Google unrolls this update, all new sites should be built with mobile-first in mind. 

Ready to get started?

Tell us about your project