Mobile-First Indexing: How it works and impacts ranking and SEO

Insight | May 5, 2020

Google is uniformly optimizing how its search engine functions to make it more user-friendly. In other words, it ensures that its search engine keeps up with changing user needs.

With the sudden upsurge in internet usage on mobile phones, there has been a significant shift in how SEO functions. Mobiles have, in a way, outweighed desktops as the most popular method and platform for searching.

Did you know? 3 out of every 5 searches happen on mobile!

In 2018, mobile-first indexing became the talk of the town. And it drastically altered how sites look in search engine results pages or SERPs.

But, what is mobile-first indexing, and how does it work?

Decoding mobile-first indexing

To put it clearly, mobile-first indexing refers to Google using your website’s mobile version as the basis for both indexing and ranking.

Earlier, indexing (or how the search engine stored the information on and content of a website) was primarily done using the “desktop version of a page’s content when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user’s query.”

Ever since the overhaul in how users access Google, this has changed.
The idea, in the words of Neil Patel, is that now “Google will primarily consider the mobile version of your site to rank it in Google.”

So if you don’t try to optimize your website for its mobile version, your rankings (on both desktop as well as mobile) are bound to sink.

This means that the mobile variant of your website has become your website’s primary version and will be considered so by Google when it ranks your website.

It’s not going to change rankings in a very significant way. But if, for instance, your website’s mobile version has limited content compared to its desktop variant, Google will give more precedence to the former – which could have severe implications for your business results.

It’s not imprudent to say that mobile SEO has never been so paramount.

What mobile-first indexing means for SEO and ranking in 2019

Websites are made to attract users. To make the first impression and possibly the best one. They are gateways to the heaven of brand outreach, conversion, and sales.

It was very essential to optimize websites for higher rankings and ultimately drive more traffic. Don’t get us wrong it still is. But with mobile-first indexing, Google has placed mobile-first.

It’s going to index and give more precedence to what it finds on the mobile version of your website. This means, if your desktop and mobile variants are significantly different, it’s going to cost you your business.


Because if your mobile version isn’t optimized, it will fail to make the kind of impact that is needed to attract users. Your chances of getting sales or conversion will stand marred. Even, if you have a highly optimized website for the desktop.

It’ll be worse to not have a version for mobiles at all. Because all those businesses with websites for mobiles will get higher rankings. So your desktop version, no matter how awesome it is, will rank lower compared to mobile versions of other websites as mobile takes precedence.