From the Data: 5 Insights on Google’s Mobile-First Index

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It’s been a little more than two weeks since I wrote about Google’s mobile-first search index announcement and what that means for SEO. Since then, I wanted to see what impact this truly had. seoClarity took a look at the data in aggregate from more than 2,000 brands we track through our platform to see the impact thus far. Here’s what matters:

1) Speed wins.

Speed has been, from day one of Google’s talk about mobile, a HUGE driving force of the mobile experience. With the shift to the mobile-first index, speed is now a CRITICAL factor. Tons of mobile sites were thrown together without thought to the speed component – Time to go fix it right now! (seoClarity clients – navigate to the PageSpeed report under Tools to review your PageSpeed scores for both desktop and mobile.

2) There is still ONE index.

Contrary to a lot of chatter, there is no separate index for desktop and mobile results (even though it was mentioned as something Google was evaluating by Gary Ilyes at SMX Advanced). The update happening right now is about shifting the evaluation of on-page factors from the desktop page to the mobile page over a period of time, but it still references there being a primary page that is evaluated as part of the main index. If you track your site indexation using the site: command (flawed, but still useful), it should still reflect the pages you have indexed in the search engine.

3) There is NO change happening overnight.

Despite the announcement just two weeks ago (in early November 2016), there is very little in terms of real data to indicate a massive change in the SERP landscape. Unlike a big algorithm switch, this is a change that you can bet will be tested, reviewed and then rolled out gradually over a period of time. There are still tens of thousands of prominent sites with a sub-optimal mobile experience. Google’s end objective is still to make sure that end users receive the best results. If they flip that switch too quickly, it would do a disservice to millions of mobile searchers.

4) Expect to see Google’s mobile bot crawling your desktop site.

Googlebot mobile user agent is going to be seen a lot more in your crawl logs; thanks to its enhanced role of now being the primary crawler for building the index. (seoClarity clients can see this in the BotClarity crawl log analysis reports.)

5) Make sure ALL content is on parity.

And I do mean ALL content. Go through your desktop pages with a fine tooth comb. Review beyond the basic title, meta’s, h1’s and content on the page. Check your schema markup tags, internal links, and special content blocks. 


Measure the impact on YOUR site!
There is a very small percentage of businesses for whom mobile is still not a significant percentage of traffic. If you have very little traffic coming from mobile today (check all traffic, not just traffic coming from organic results), chances are that you will not notice anything different from this update. You want to be sure that not very many people are looking for you on a mobile device. Go to your analytics platform and look up the percentage of your visitors that on your site with a mobile device.


Averages regarding on mobile traffic to websites can be deceiving. Within our own client set, there are companies that actually get <15% of their traffic from mobile devices! And some that get over 65% of their traffic from mobile devices. Clearly, the urgency and impact of this change is going to be vastly different depending on current mobile traffic and the traffic you expect to get from mobile in the future. 


If you aren’t sure how Google see your site’s mobile optimization, I wrote a post on few ways you can determine that and post on immediate next steps based on your site’s mobile status.
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  • Harry Prasad

    2016 and 2017 is the year for Mobile friendliness and your post beautifully depicts it usefulness

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