Google's Mobile-first Indexing and Its Impact on SEO Explained

Google's Mobile-first Indexing and Its Impact on SEO Explained
Google's announcement of mobile-first indexing has caused quite a stir in the online community, and has also raised concern about its impact on websites' SEO. Let us go over the basics of mobile-first indexing and find out how it affects SEO.
Sonali Pimpale
Last Updated: Sep 7, 2020
If you decide to take a step outside your house and try to find people without a smartphone or any sort of mobile device, no doubt you will find the task more difficult than the labors of Hercules.

With mobile devices dominating over desktops and laptops, the year 2016 witnessed mobile searches leaving behind desktop ones in the dust. Google is taking active efforts to make the web more mobile-friendly for users.

In continuation of these efforts, Google announced in March 2018 that it will start mobile-first indexing. This announcement brought along many questions with it. What, exactly, is mobile-first indexing? How does it affect website rankings? Do any changes be made to the website? Let us try to find out the answers.
Earlier, the desktop version of a website was considered to be a primary one, while the mobile version was seen as the secondary or alternate version. However, with the ever-increasing use of mobile devices to access the web, there has been a major shift in this scenario. In mobile-first indexing, the mobile version of your site will be given the first preference for indexing. As a result, the mobile version will become the base for the ranking of your site.

Do not worry if your site does not have a mobile version. Remember, it is a mobile-first, not mobile-only indexing. In case Google does not find a mobile version, the desktop version of your site will be used for indexing. However, lack of a mobile-friendly site might negatively affect your SEO ranking, while a mobile site will get higher chances of ranking.
Responsive website
If you have a responsive website that works well on both desktop and mobile devices, you do not have anything to worry about, as the content on both mobile and desktop versions will more or less be the same.

However, you might encounter some ranking issues if the mobile version of your site is different from the desktop one. Due to space and size considerations, mobile version of a site typically has less content than the desktop version. If this missing content holds some vital ranking signal, your site may rank lower.
To sum up, mobile-first indexing will simply look for the mobile version of your website for indexing. Keep in mind that indexing and ranking are two separate factors. Google is changing the way of indexing, not how it ranks websites. Your rank solely depends on how well you have coded the website and the quality of its content. A responsive, mobile-friendly website will have the same chances of ranking irrespective of mobile-first or desktop indexing.
If your website isn’t deemed mobile-friendly by Google, you stand at a risk of lower ranking. Check whether your mobile version complies with the mobile-friendly guidelines to stay on the safer side regarding SEO ranking. Page speed also is one of the most important ranking factors for mobile websites. Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project specifically aims to improve mobile experience by reducing the loading speed of the site. Implementing AMP on your site will definitely improve your chances of ranking higher.
AMP Stories
As a part of the AMP project, Google has introduced Web Stories (AMP Stories), a visual storytelling format similar to Snapchat/Instagram Stories. Along with enrapturing audiences with bite-sized textual content and mesmerizing visuals, Web Stories are mobile-friendly, fast-loading, crawlable by search engines. All these factors serve to increase your ranking. Visual Stories not only offers the Web Story Builder, a user-friendly tool to create Web Stories, but also an efficient solution to integrate the Stories on your website without any coding.