mobile first indexing

How Does Mobile-First Indexing Affect SEO Rankings

We live in a mobile first era where the user experience of a site is the most important aspect of search engine rankings. If users are visiting your website and leave within a short period of time, this means that something is missing that did not match the expectations of your audience.

Google and its mobile-first indexing is powering more than half of the search results. This means that the pages you visit from a Google search are based on how the engine crawls and indexes that particular content based on the mobile version of your page.

This way Google scours the web to look at the mobile version of a certain page. This rendering will decide how your site is indexed, depending on how mobile-friendly it is.

Over 60% of Google’s organic search traffic comes from people using mobile devices. If you feature a site that has a responsive web design and caters to users then there is no issue.

You will, however, also have to reinstate that your content is optimized for the mobile platform as well as desktops. This means prioritizing load times, differentiating content and viewing the way this impacts your rankings.

What is Mobile-First Indexing?

There has been a long-time focus on the need for mobile optimization. With mobile-first indexing, there are greater rewards for companies that add responsive design to their site.

Google makes sure that this ongoing move towards helping mobile users does not go to waste. Webmaster put out a statement in 2018 which said that the crawling, indexing, and ranking systems were going through some major changes.

They were initially using the desktop versions of content present on a web page which caused issues for mobile searchers. They said, “Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.

It was only last year that Google’s index was based on desktop versions of site. Today, the primary use for mobile index is for search engine result pages (SERPS).

This entails that people are increasingly searching for content on their mobile devices more than on their desktops. Studies have shown that this trend is only likely to grow as more and more search queries are made from tablets and phones.

Optimizing Your Desktop Version Is Not the Answer

Google is now predominantly using mobile versions of most sites and their content for indexing and ranking purposes. The index used to deploy the desktop version of a page’s content when evaluating the relevance of the page itself to a user’s search.

Now, Googlebot is focusing on crawling and indexing with the majority of users in mind by employing the smartphone agent going forward.

This will be seen in the responsiveness of a site, including any logo designs, images and media formats.  The easiest way to save your site? Optimize the desktop version of it for mobile devices.

The prevalent manner of making this happen is revamping your original pages. What SEO experts recommend now is a direct, mobile-first approach to optimization.

This basically means develop your site for mobile from the get-go and then optimize that for desktops later. The content needs to be the same, which means the automatic transition is also a vital step. All of this will inevitably influence your rankings.

How Rankings Will Be Impacted

Mobile-first indexing can be a scary prospect when you think about the effect it will have on your rankings. If you cater to users and help them find what they are looking for, your site will not be affected too drastically.

The processes behind search results will be impacted, however, as the mobile revolution is not a small movement.

The gradual transition has reflected a considerable change in user behavior as well as referrals made by most search engines. Where mobile web use has outgrown traditional desktop use, there are many reasons to be worried.

Google has stated before that ranking changes and mobile-first indexing are unrelated. This does not mean that ranking changes won’t happen on certain sites in specific circumstances.

It could be because of a missing markup, or re-ranking of equivalent pages. Either way, you will have to look out for:

The Value of Content

You have to ensure that your mobile version includes high quality and valuable content that you previously featured on the desktop site.

This includes text, videos, images, and any other media. All formats need to be crawlable and indexable (including alt-attributes for images).

Data Structure

The same kind of structured data needs to exist on both versions. The data markup needs to show URLs within them on mobile pages and be their own specific mobile versions. Unnecessary additional data should be avoided if it isn’t relevant to the specific content of your page.

Page Speed on Mobile

When moving to a mobile-first index, fast page speed is key to its success. There can be no boost for fast sites but rather, if your site is really slow, there can be a demotion. Faster page speeds will satisfy users to be in favor of your site and help your revenue.

Proper Rendering of Your Site

If your site does not render properly, it can fall out of Google’s index. Thus, you have to pay attention to how your site is displayed as it is crucial to help your rankings.

The Length of Your Posts

The last thing to look at is the length of your existing content. A 2500 word post would perform well on your site’s desktop version. But mobile is different. Long posts will be regarded as intimidating and users will not be interested. Using short-form content or other types of will make it easier for visitors to access your posts.


The increasing use of mobile devices for accessing the internet and the growing relevance of Google’s mobile-first indexing has made it essential for businesses to adopt the mobile-first website design phenomenon. This will not only help in bringing in more mobile users but also improve overall rankings on Google.


Sarah Jay has been a content writer for many years. She works for Logonado and her articles usually focus on website development, graphic design, SEO tips and tricks and technology.

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