Go Mobile-First to stay ahead of the Google game!

10 Aug 2017

Can you believe that it has been over two years since Google rolled out their first mobile-friendly update? The update was so big, that Google forewarned website owners and webmasters to go mobile-friendly or their mobile rankings would suffer! In May 2016, a second major update to the mobile-friendly algorithm was rolled out, meaning bigger consequences for non-mobile-friendly websites!

Well now Google’s very own Gary Illyes has confirmed that in addition to the 2015 ‘Mobile Geddon’ update, Google will debut their mobile-first index, expected to be rolled out mid-2018. But before we explain how this may affect your business, let’s take a minute to clear up some SEO jargon!

What is indexing?

In short, indexing is the process of Google (or another search engine) turning your webpage into a useful document and storing it in their huge database along with all of your other web pages. The search engine then makes a copy of your page in a format that is useful for their ranking algorithms to read. Google then ranks our website based on lots of different factors, including mobile-friendliness.

Mobile-first indexing

Currently, Google only has one index and it focuses primarily on desktop sites. You might be thinking, “well how do they know if my website is mobile-friendly then?” The answer, in short is that when Google crawls your website they take their mobile Googlebot with them. The mobile-bot then collects information related to mobile-friendliness, responsiveness and other mobile signals, which Google uses as a ranking factor.

In other words, no matter how mobile-friendly your website currently is, Google ranks your website based on the desktop pages that have been indexed. Having a mobile friendly site is extremely important, because if Google recognises that your website isn’t mobile friendly, you will not appear in mobile search results, which could be detrimental to your traffic, especially if your customers predominantly use mobile devices to search for your business.

Having a desktop-only index now causes a problem, and Google have realised that they aren’t always returning the most relevant results to mobile users. However, this is all about to change with Google’s first ever mobile-index!

What’s the difference?

A responsive website is initially built with desktop users in mind first. If a user views the website on a mobile device, the website will mould into mobile to fit the screen size of the user’s device, whether it be a smartphone or tablet.

A mobile-first website is built the other way round, designed with the mobile user in mind first. When a user views a mobile-first website on a desktop, it will then expand to fit the screen of the user’s desktop.

Some responsive websites don’t always condense down as smoothly as possible, cutting off bits of content and cluttering the page with big images and visuals, rather than emphasising the content that the user is trying to find. Whilst lots of engaging visuals are great for desktop sites, they make a mobile page appear untidy and the relevant information could become less prominent, tainting the user experience. A mobile-first website does the opposite, ensuring that the content deemed most relevant to customers is a priority over visuals.

Mobile vs Desktop Search

Mobile search is on the rise with over 72% of UK internet users using a smartphone and 60% of users using a tablet, compared with just 53% of users viewing on a desktop. Google says 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead.

However, with this said it is important not to strictly divide mobile users and desktop users. According to Smart Insights, multiplatform ownership dominates in most countries, meaning the majority of users switch from mobile to desktop depending on the tasks they’re doing online or what they’re searching for. With this in mind it’s fair to say that building your website with both mobile and desktop users in mind is crucial if you want to tick all of the user experience and search engine friendliness boxes.

Go mobile or regret it…

The global mobile movement is happening now, and you need to jump on board the mobile band wagon if you haven’t already! The good news is, if you have a responsive website then you won’t be effected from an SEO point of view. However, if you have separate mobile and desktop websites, this is where it gets a little complicated! If the content on your desktop site is different to the content on your mobile site, it could mean if some content is ONLY on the desktop site, the mobile Googlebot won’t see it and it won’t end up in the mobile first index.

Improve your user experience

It is important to understand which form of your website (mobile, desktop or both) better caters for your user’s needs, and by ensuring that you have a website that serves both device categories you are enhancing the user experience of your consumers.


Adopting a mobile-first approach means you can tailor the design of your website to show users the most relevant content first and improving the way they transition through the website to find related content. This encourages users to return to your website and continue to browse for longer. The longer a user visits your website for, the more likely they are to convert.

Ultimately mobile first = content first = users first! Simples.

Want to learn more?

If you want to learn more about how to make your website as mobile-friendly as possible, improve your customer’s’ website experience & appear in mobile search results. Give the HushBots a call on 01325 361729 or drop us a line at [email protected]