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

Insight | June 29, 2022

Google is constantly 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 major shift in how SEO functions. Mobiles have, in a way, outweighed desktops as the most popular method and platform for searching. 


Three out of every five 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


In simpler words, 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. 

In the words of Neil Patel, the idea is that now “Google will primarily consider the mobile version of your site to rank it in Google.” 


So, if you don’t optimize your website for its mobile version, your rankings (on both desktop and 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 less content compared to its desktop variant, Google will give more precedence to the former – which could have serious 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 factors


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 important to optimize websites for higher rankings and ultimately 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, which 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 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 not to have a version for mobiles 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.