Mobile-first indexing means that businesses with a website that is not mobile-friendly could lose their search engine ranking on both mobile and desktop searches.

This Blog is an update to an earlier post, and includes reference to Google’s new Core Web Vitals update.

Mobile-First Indexing

Back in March, 2018, Google announced the rollout of mobile-first indexing of websites. But what did that actually mean?

Historically, Google looked at the desktop version of your website to determine where to rank your site in online searches. Then in 2018, they added the caveat that your website had to be mobile-friendly or they would lower your ranking on mobile searches. This was done to encourage website owners to provide a good user experience for the ever-increasing number of people who view websites on their phones.

But the rules have changed again—mobile-first indexing means that Google is now turning up the heat once again with its policy and intends to look at your mobile website first (as in before your desktop website. And here’s the kicker, your mobile website will determine where your site should rank in ALL online searches, both mobile and desktop.

It’s a game changer that could directly and dramatically impact your business.

Why The Shift to Mobile-First?

According to Google, In the USA, 94% of people with smartphones search for local information on their phones. Interestingly, 77% of mobile searches occur at home or at work, places where desktop computers are likely to be present.

Google wants to ensure that their users are finding what they are looking for, and prioritizing mobile-friendly sites does just that.

According to HubSpot, 87% of mobile consumers turn to search engines first to address their needs.

Even decision-makers in the federal government use mobile devices to access information. According to Market Connections’ 2019 Federal Media & Marketing Study, over 75% of federal workers use their mobile devices in the workplace on a regular basis.

Google plans to make the transition in waves, notifying site owners of the changes through Search Console (the tool that your webmaster should be tracking), if you are not the webmaster and you don’t have one—you may be unaware of the impending changes. However, once the shift occurs, the mobile version of your website’s pages will be shown in search results—and that may not be pretty for some companies.

The Impact of Mobile-First indexing

If you currently have two separate sites: a desktop site, and a mobile site, and the mobile site doesn’t have all the same content as the desktop site, your ranking might take a dive because of that missing content.

If you have one site, and it is not a responsive website, you might want to look into getting a new site fairly soon (like yesterday!)

Responsive websites automatically re-configure to display correctly on different devices. On desktop, there is more space to present content side by side, but on mobile devices, people prefer to scroll up and down. Having one site that covers all devices also makes it much easier to manage content and content additions—there’s only one place to worry about.

Core Web Vitals (2021 Update)

Announced in 2020 and implemented in 2021, Core Web Vitals builds on the criteria Google is using to determine where your website’s Search Engine Result Page position.

Core Web Vital add’s three additional criteria for website owners, designers and developers to consider:

LCP: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): 
How long it takes for the largest image or text block to become visible. Less than 2.5 seconds is good. Over 4 seconds is considered poor.

First Input Delay (FID):
How long it takes from the time a user interacts with the page (clicks) to the time the  browser starts processing the request. Less than 100 milliseconds is good. Over 300 Milliseconds is poor.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS):
A layout shift is when the page content shifts from one rendered frame to another. Or, in other words, the content jumps (it’s quite annoying when it happens).

A score of less than 0.1 is good and over 0.25 is poor.

These additional criteria are going to play a significant role in your search engine optimization thinking and, unlike adding backlinks or content, Core Web Vital will only be achieved through efficient design and website development.

The Bottom Line

Responsive sites are the way to go—don’t risk your Google rankings by ignoring the issue. Make a plan and implement the necessary changes now! And, if your competitors are lagging behind, soon you’ll be reaping the benefits. On the other hand, if your competition already has a responsive website, the gap is widening every day.

What’s Next?

If you are unsure about what to do next we are offering a FREE website assessment—we’ll let you know where you stand today and what your options are moving forward.

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