With over 85% of the world’s search market and over half of all those searches now taking place on mobile, it’s hardly surprising that Google are talking about a mobile first approach for their search algorithm. Which explains why Google are trialling a new ‘mobile first’ index – shifting their indexing priority from desktop to mobile.

Mobile optimisation has always been an extremely important ranking factor, and since Google released their ‘mobile-friendly algorithm’ back in 2015, designed to give mobile friendly sites a boost, the top hundred most visible domains all have mobile-friendly solutions according to SearchMetrics.

But Mobile First is a much bigger deal, so it’s important to know in what way it’s different, and what it will mean for everyone’s web presence.

First of all – the difference. We all know that Google’s ‘spiders’ crawl the web, indexing pages and storing data ready for retrieval when matching search queries. No change there.

But the crawling and indexing up until now is done on a desktop first basis. By switching to mobile first, Google will be leading their indexing based on your mobile site.

And what that means for you is that there are three key principles you need to take into account to make sure your search results aren’t impacted.

1. Responsiveness – A Site That Fits

With 85% of all websites now meeting Google’s criteria for being mobile friendly, the chances are you already have a site that adapts to mobile phones and tablets by delivering different code, based on the same HTML. Adjusting its layout as the screen real estate shrinks. But if your site isn’t yet responsive then you need to sort that out as soon as possible, because a non-responsive site may be penalised in search results. Making your site harder to find.

2. Degraded Mobile Content

Ensuring your site is responsive is one thing, but you also need to check to make sure the content hasn’t been ‘dumbed down’, especially for mobile. By degrading the content (shortening navigation, reducing copy, or removing search engine friendly elements such as pictures with useful alt text), you will once again likely impact your search results. As Google is going to begin with your mobile site, that degraded content is the first thing the spiders will see.

3. Mobile Site Replication

The most effective way to prepare for the new algorithm is to ensure your website is fully responsive, and that it hasn’t been degraded in relation to content. It needs to have all the content that your desktop site has (and certainly the key content you hope to be searched for) whilst remaining completely adapted to mobile and tablet browsers.

So if you consider these three principles you’ll mitigate any negative impact from the roll out of Google’s mobile first index. And, if you’re not sure whether your site ticks these boxes, get in touch and we’ll carry out a quick free audit for you.