Simply put, Google’s mobile-first indexing is a reversal of how Google indexes websites. Rather than crawl desktop pages, Google will crawl mobile pages instead. Desktop pages are only crawled when websites lack mobile versions.
What does this mean for business owners and webmasters? Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes tweeted in November that “we’re aiming for a close to quality-neutral launch,” meaning the mobile-first approach isn’t meant to dramatically shake up the search rankings. It’s clear, though, that websites that struggle in mobile browsers could get left in the dust. Google’s mobile-first index is changing the rules of SEO. Here’s how to stay ahead of the curve.
Google’s mobile-first indexing is the clearest sign yet that mobile web browsing has thoroughly eclipsed desktop viewing. Investing in mobile SEO has been important for several years. Now, it’s absolutely critical. It’s Step 1. Google will still index desktop websites when mobile sites aren’t available, but don’t count on desktop sites getting an edge in the rankings.
Going forward, Google’s mobile-first indexing will primarily be crawling the mobile version of a site’s content to learn how it should be indexed in search.
This is a considerable shift away from Google’s typical indexing practices, which involves crawling the desktop versions of web pages and indexing them in both mobile and desktop search results.