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Google switches to mobile-first indexing: is your web design ready?

02 March 2017

Google has been tinkering again, only this time the changes they’ve made are quite profound. So profound, in fact, that they'll catch many businesses off-guard… Unless you happen to be one of those businesses. Because you’ve found this blog post.

There’s a relief, eh?

In 2016, Google announced that it would be introducing something called the ‘mobile-first index’. Cue internet meltdown and a whole host of web design agencies suddenly making themselves very prominent indeed. If you didn’t act straight away, they said, your website would simply disappear without trace.

While mild panic following a significant Google update is as common as it is understandable, it rarely helps the matter. At New Edge, we prefer to review such changes with clear, unbiased minds before taking action. We also start the process a good deal of time before the changes arrive.

This isn’t easy, because Google isn’t always that forthcoming with its plans, but leaks happen and industry insiders are a goldmine of foresight into which we can tap as web designers - something our team does regularly.

However, the mobile-first index is undoubtedly a big one and something every business owner, blogger and, essentially, anyone who wants to be found online, should take seriously.

So, what is Google’s mobile-first index?

Whenever you conduct a search on Google, the clever system that sits behind the scenes delves into what is known as an ‘index’ - essentially a massive repository that contains details on virtually every website in existence.

Google’s index is, as you would expect, incredibly well maintained and organised. However, the way in which it’s organised has changed - big time. Previously, Google sifted through the index with the mindset of a desktop user; mobile websites were treated as important, but second only to their desktop brethren.

The mobile-first index has reversed this priority. Now, mobile-ready websites are the pages which are indexed and searched for first, putting the desktop versions squarely in second place.

A word of caution

Our explanation of the mobile-first index above is based on solid theories of the subject but, again, it should be noted that no one outside the upper echelons of Google knows exactly what the search giant is up to.

Mobile-first indexing is detailed fairly comprehensively on Google’s own blog, but they’re never going to give away all of their secrets, leading to pontification, experimentation and a great deal of head scratching on behalf of search industry experts.

We should therefore tread with caution, but there’s no doubting that the mobile-first index feels somewhat overdue in a world that is dominated by small-screened devices.

What do do if you website isn’t mobile-friendly

Firstly, you need to check if your business website responds well on smartphones, and there’s a very simple way to do this: simply pick up your own device, load up your website and take a good look.

Do you have to pinch and zoom to view the text properly? Do certain buttons disappear or fail to work? If any of these undesirable facets make themselves known, your website isn’t mobile-friendly. Sorry.

The next step you’ll need to take is to speak to your web designer or, alternatively, us! While there are many self-build web platforms out there, nothing quite beats the experienced hand of a professional web design agency.

Lastly, don’t panic! If you’re not mobile-ready now, you can ensure you’ll be ready for Google’s growing love of responsive websites relatively quickly by seeking the aforementioned help.

Once mobilised, your business can look forward to a future of prominent rankings on the most important search engine of them all. Don’t delay - conduct that test now and act if you’re unhappy with the results.


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