It’s only natural to get nervous when Google prepares for a major algorithm update because even a minor change has the chance to influence where your website lands in search engine results pages. A small change may even require you to adjust your national, regional or local SEO strategy, too.

With so many small and mid-size business owners expressing concern over Google’s shift to mobile-first search, we thought it would be a good idea to explain how the move may affect organic rankings. We also thought it would be wise to explain what Google’s shift may mean for your search engine optimization efforts at the same time.

What Is Mobile-First Indexing?

If you’re wondering what mobile-first indexing is, you just have to consider its name to figure it out. Instead of indexing websites based on their desktop versions as Google has traditionally done, Google will now start with a site’s mobile version to find what it’ll include in its index as the baseline for how the search giant will determine where a website ranks in search results.

If you track crawlbot traffic on your website, you may see more activity from Smartphone Googlebot. This means your cached pages will normally be the mobile versions of those pages.

What Will Happen if I Don’t Have a Mobile Website?

What will happen if you don’t have a mobile website? Nothing serious. It’s just that your entire world will crumble around you, leaving you alone and destitute. See? We told you it wouldn’t be that bad.

In all seriousness, you don’t have much to worry about if you don’t have a mobile website. Even though Google would prefer for you to have a mobile site, it will still crawl the desktop version of your site.

If you do have a mobile website in addition to your desktop iteration, it’s vital for you to ensure the content and links on your mobile site are very similar to what’s on your desktop site. By doing this, you’ll make sure Google crawls the right content and ranks your mobile site as favorably as it ranked your desktop website in organic searches.

Should I Be Worried if My Mobile Site Isn’t as Flush with Content as My Desktop Website?

To answer the question posed immediately above in a word – possibly. By switching to a mobile-first index, Google is going to crawl your mobile site. If your mobile site has less content than your desktop website, it could be a problem because it’s quite likely that Google is only going to crawl your mobile website. This will nullify any potential benefits that the added content on your desktop site provided when Google used desktop-first indexing.

To prevent your mobile site from having less content than your desktop version, Google suggests using a responsive design. When it comes to SEO and page rank, a responsive design will ensure that your content is identical on every webpage between your desktop site and your mobile website.

How Will Expandable Content Be Weighted?

When using its desktop-first index, Google doesn’t give things like accordions and expandable boxes much weight because they don’t really improve the user experience on a desktop website. In fact, they aren’t even necessary in some instances.

Because mobile devices have smaller screens, things like hidden tabs make a lot more sense to conserve viewing space. With its mobile-first index, Google will now give full weight to elements like accordions if they’re incorporated into a website’s design to improve the user experience.

Is Google’s Adoption of Mobile-First Search Really Going to Change Rankings Noticeably?

The answer to this question is tricky because it’s a bit premature to say yes or no with 100 percent certainty. Google has said repeatedly that it doesn’t expect its switch to mobile-first search to change its overall rankings very much at all.

Where Will the Mobile-Friendly Ranking Boost Come into Play?

Google has been saying for quite a while that content that’s not mobile-friendly will not rank as well, and that will continue to be the case when its mobile-friendly index is fully rolled out. With the desktop-first index, you get results from desktop content that’s used for creating search results for both desktop and mobile users. Then, Google applies a ranking boost to mobile-friendly pages.

As Google continues to roll out its mobile-first indexing, more and more people will get search results that are derived from mobile content. Once the mobile content is indexed and used in listings, Google will apply a mobile-friendly ranking to web pages that are mobile-friendly.

Where Will Google Get Ranking Signals?

In the past, Google has gotten ranking signals from your desktop website to rank your mobile version. Once its mobile-first index is fully implemented, this will happen in reverse, meaning Google will rank your mobile site and your desktop website based on signals it picks up from crawling your mobile website.

The page load time, your titles, structured data and other things will be evaluated on your mobile site. Google will use these and other ranking signals to determine your site’s ranking in SERPs. Google is aware that the search results you get regardless of whether you’re using a mobile device or desktop will be skewed in favor mobile, but mobile usage is growing and more and more people will search using mobile instead of desktop moving forward.

Contact GoingClear 

Are you worried that your website isn’t prepared for a mobile-first world? If so, you’re probably looking for an SEO company that provides SEO services that can help you get your website ready. Since 2001, GoingClear has helped small and mid-size businesses in and around Boston, MA with their digital strategy, websites, and digital marketing as well as their SEO in the face of looming changes. To learn how we can help prepare your website for mobile-first indexing, contact GoingClear now.