Recently, Google announced a major shift in how they will be indexing websites.  This could have a huge impact on your website rankings, particularly if you don’t have a mobile website, or your mobile website is not designed well enough.

How Your Website Gets Into Google

Before we go into how this massive change could impact your site, lets first explore just how your website gets into Google in the first place.

Google relies on links to and from websites to crawl through the web to find web pages and entire websites.  When you go to a website, these are the links to the other pages that you click on to get more information about a business, product or service.  When you click on the “About Us” text on a page, for example, and that takes you to the about page, what you have really done is clicked on the link to that page.

Google relies on these links to find pages. If it can’t find the links, it can’t find the pages.

Over the years Google has used different types of software to find those links.  The software, commonly referred to as a crawler (Because it crawls through links and text looking for links) has taken many shapes over the years.  From a basic version, much like your first generation web browsers, to current, more advanced web browsers, like the mobile browser on your phone.

Google has also improved their ability to see text and links in different kinds of documents.  For example, for a long time Google’s crawler couldn’t see links inside of JavaScript files, for example.  It also couldn’t find and follow links inside of PDF’s that it found online.

Today however, Google’s crawling technology is so advanced and sophisticated that it can find links to web pages almost anywhere.  We’ve even seen instances where it tries to guess at page names based on what it’s already found.  So on an E-commerce site for example, Google would look at its current index of products and start guessing potential new product URLs and see if there was a page there.

Why is the new Mobile First Index Important?

As mentioned, up until recently Google would use a crawler which emulated a desktop computer to visit a site, get the links and index the content on the pages.

But with most people now using mobile phones to find web pages (some estimates put mobile phone traffic at greater than desktop traffic) Google has come to the realization that it should change things up and begin indexing websites the way people see them on their mobile phone.

That means your site MUST not only have a mobile version, but needs to be easy to use.

This could be an issue for many site owners.  Particularly those that do not have a mobile version.

While Google claims that sites without mobile versions won’t be adversely impacted in search engine rankings, one has to believe that it would only be a matter of time before that is the case.

There is also an issue with duplicate content.  Some websites have multiple versions, depending on the screen resolution and/or type of device visiting their website.  Some businesses have a desktop version, a version for phones, and yet another version for tablets.  Some even go so far as to have versions of websites for Android phones and different versions for iPhones.

Aside from the fact that all this duplication is hard to maintain, you could end up in an instance where Google finds some content on your Android site that it can’t find on the desktop site, or worse, finds the content on all sites.  This could lead to a duplicate content penalty which can be difficult to get rid of.

That’s why at Okanagan Web Solutions, we have been building our websites Responsively for many years.   Before most people knew what responsive sites were, we were building them, learning how they work, and breaking them on purpose to test their limits.

For those who don’t know, a responsive website is one that responds to the device screen it is appearing on.  It automatically resizes itself to the screen, moves elements around to fit the screen and can even change its font size, image sizes and more.  All dependent on the device and screen size and resolution it detects.

If you are concerned about the mobile first index and how it may impact your future rankings, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free assessment of your site and how it will perform in the new index when it rolls out in 2018.