The advent of smartphones has revolutionized digital communication and the tech industry. From calling to SMS, internet browsing, social networking, and much more; mobile phones have set a long journey to become ‘smart.’ But it’s not limited to all that. The way people use smartphones also greatly determines digital marketing and eCommerce trends. In fact, most online shopping is done through mobile phones. This is why mobile optimization has become an important part of SEO. Hence, it’s extremely important to understand every aspect of it. Are you aware of what mobile-first indexing is and how it works? If not, read on!

Mobile-First Indexing

It is no secret that Google is specifically dedicated to catering to its mobile users’ needs. Thanks to the fact that most internet searches are run through mobile phones. Therefore, now Google even penalizes websites that are hard to access through mobile phones. As a result, non-mobile-friendly websites get ranking demotion on the SERP.

Before diving further into this topic, you need to be familiar with the characteristics that make a website hard to be accessed through mobile phones:

  • Slow page speed and website loading
  • Unoptimized images
  • Web design unresponsive on mobile phones
  • Poor navigation on the mobile version
  • Too many pop-ups
  • CTA not optimized for mobile users

These are some of the reasons why your website doesn’t work well on mobile phones.

Now, this is clear that Google penalizes websites that are not mobile-friendly. But how does it work? For this, you’ll first need to find out…

What is mobile-first indexing?

To put it simply, Google predominantly considers the mobile version of website content for indexing and ranking a website.

If you don’t know what ‘indexing’ is-

Whenever it finds a new web page, the Google spiders crawl over its content. It helps Google understand what the content on a particular page is about. Once it analyses the content, it adds the web-page to its database. If Google doesn’t have your webpage in its database, it can’t match your content with relevant queries. Hence, indexing is important for ranking.

Earlier, for every new webpage that was discovered by Google, it primarily used its desktop version to evaluate the webpage’s relevancy to a user’s query.

Google announced to be experimenting with mobile-first indexing in 2016. Finally, from July 2019 onwards, Google enabled mobile-first indexing by default for the new webpages that it’d crawl. According to it, Google will use your website’s mobile version content unlike what it used to do earlier. This was only so for new pages/sites and those unknown to Google yet.

However, in 2020, Google announced mobile-first indexing for the whole web. As an article in Google’s blog for developers noted, this change was implemented starting from September 2020.

Are there two separate indexes for desktop and mobile?

Mobile-first index is not a separate index as such. Google uses only one index. It still continues to show the URL that is most appropriate for the users in SERP regardless of the device they are using.

To explain it better— let’s say your website has two versions: a desktop version and a mobile version. Google will use your mobile version content instead of the other one when determining your site’s ranking on both devices. This means that the index remains the same.

What if your site doesn’t have a mobile version?

In case your site doesn’t have a mobile version, your content can still be indexed. Remember it is mobile ‘first’ indexing and not mobile ‘only’ indexing. However, in comparison with mobile-friendly websites, your site won’t rank as well. This will adversely affect your website’s Google rankings not only on mobile phones but also on desktops.

Mobile is the future. Most searches on the internet are run using mobile phones. If you haven’t optimized for mobile yet, you are already far behind. Therefore, if you don’t have a mobile version for your website yet, it’s high time you do now.

What are some best mobile-first indexing practices?

Having talked about mobile-first indexing and how it works, let’s briefly talk about some best Search Engine Optimization practices to get the most out of it.

# Googlebot should be able to access and render your content.

For this, take care of the following things:

  • The meta robot tags should be the same for both mobile and desktop
  • Make sure you don’t lazy-load primary content since Google doesn’t load content that requires interactions.
  • To let Google crawl your resources, make sure your URL is not blocked. Check that you are not using disallow directive.

# Keep sale content for both mobile and desktop.

Optimizing for mobile search doesn’t mean reducing the content. If your mobile content can’t provide value equivalent to your desktop/primary content, the whole point will be lost. Moreover, you will not be able to rank well. Therefore, make sure that:

  • Your mobile site should contain the same and as much content as your desktop site.
  • Organize your mobile content with clear and meaningful headings just like you do on the desktop site.

# Your structured data should be present on both versions of your website.

You should specifically take care of the following things:

  • Both mobile and desktop versions should have the same structured data.
  • Make sure you use correct URLs in structured data on your website’s mobile version. You’d need to update those URLs to mobile URLs.

# Take care of the visual media.

You’d need to optimize the visual media on your website for the mobile version. Some of the best image and video optimization practices that we suggest are:

  • Only high-quality visual media should be used.
  • Use supported formats and tags.
  • Don’t use changing URLs for image and video loading.
  • Both mobile and desktop versions should have the same alt text for images on the website.
  • Keep a good quality visual content for both versions of the website.
  • Take care of how you place the video on the mobile version of your website.

# The metadata on both versions of your website should be the same.

Ensure equivalent descriptive title and meta description over both versions of your website.

# Adjust ad placement on the mobile version.

Ads placed on your website that look good on the desktop version might not suit the mobile version.


Most people browse the internet and shop online through their mobile phones. Hence, mobile optimization has become an indispensable part of search engine optimization and tech industry. If you want to get the best out of your digital marketing campaigns and programs, understanding mobile-first indexing is crucial. There continues to be a lot of confusion in this regard. To put it very simply, mobile-first indexing implies that Google uses the mobile version of your website to index it. Therefore, it is important to optimize the mobile version of your website accordingly. Or else, you may not be able to enjoy a good ranking not only on the mobile SERPs but desktop SERPs as well.

We hope you got your answers. If not, don’t worry! Our comment section is open and we’re happy to help.

Somya Sharma : Regardless of being a Delhi University graduate with a major in English Literature, Somya's interests are not limited to poetry and drama. As a person who loves researching, discussing and writing about topics rooted in various disciplines, the list of subjects that tickle her fancy is ever-growing. She finds the power of psychology in marketing particularly intriguing and has set out writing blogs with the aim of helping budding marketers polish-up.