Mobile has outgrown the web and Google is fully aware of this fact. Just recently the tech giant has begun sending notifications to webmasters whose sites have been migrated to mobile-first indexing.

If you didn’t know, mobile is already bigger than the desktop realm when it comes to the total worldwide website traffic. Maybe some business owners haven’t focused on mobile as they should, but most brands have been adapting for this trend for years. If you’re in the first category, you need to adjust fast until it’s not too late.

mobile first indexing mobile usage statistic - Mobile-First Indexing: What to Optimize in a Small Business Website

Source: Stone Temple

Almost all experts that have been analyzing the technology trends believe that this change was quite a necessary thing. Google’s decision to adjust its algorithms to prioritize the mobile experience is welcomed by SEO guys and business owners alike. Let’s just see how it ends playing out.

But what exactly is mobile-first indexing and does it really have an impact on how small businesses operate on the web? This article contains all you need to know about mobile-first indexing and it’s impact on small business.

What is mobile-first indexing?

Mobile-first indexing is meant to be a reward mechanism that will prioritize mobile-optimized content. Webmasters that make mobile their priority will be rewarded with a better search ranking and all the advantages that go along with it.

But don’t get too excited, as there is also a reverse of the medal. If your website is not optimized for mobile-first indexing, your ranking will most likely be penalized and your visitors will be redirected to websites that follow the new Google guidelines.

Basically, what will happen is instead of crawling your website with the desktop Googlebot, Google will start deploying a Smartphone Googlebot which will view your site as if it where a visitor using android.

In case I wasn’t clear enough, here’s an explanation video about the changes brought by Mobile First Index:

How it was before

Before the rise of mobile, Google (and any other search engine) has indexed websites based on the desktop version and nothing else. It was only in 2016 that Google announced plans to modify their algorithm to crawl the mobile version of the website instead.

Fast forward a couple of years and there’s already talk about the fact that in some cases, Google will not even be interested in crawling your desktop version. At the end of 2017, webmasters have been urged to prepare their websites for this change. Well, now it’s finally happening.

Good or Bad News for Small Businesses?

It’s good news as long as you make sure that you only feature mobile-responsive content on your website and the content is the same on both the desktop and the mobile version.

What you can do before this change becomes permanent is to do some testing and see whether all the elements displayed on the desktop version are also appearing on mobile and vice-versa. Keep in mind that dynamic serving is still on the table, as long as the content remains the same on both platforms.

What to optimize for mobile-first indexing

If you’re keen on optimizing your small business website as much as possible, we have a few pointers for you.

Although Google has never released an official list with ranking factors that need to be adjusted for mobile first indexing, there’s an unofficial list going around that seems to be pretty close to the truth:

Factors that will bring your website ranking down:

  • Including Flash-based content
  • A small font that inhibits the visibility 
  • Technical website errors
  • Using keywords in external links
  • Using touch elements that are too small
  • Featuring intrusive interstitials

Factors that will help your website rank higher:

  • Social activity
  • Local Search Optimization
  • Rich media content (images, videos, etc.)
  • Using AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
  • Site Loading Speed

If you aren’t prepared to deal with the imminent mobile-first indexing change, drop everything else and get ready. Check if your website has already been migrated to mobile-first indexing by checking your inbox associated with the website’s webmasters account. Migrated users should see an increase in activity from Googlebot Smartphone crawler.